Long-Distance Love & Marrying Young

February 14, 2023

Graphic by Caroline Clark

I receive a text at 1:43 a.m. on a night out. I wanna get married.

Though we’ve said these words to each other many times before, I smile to myself: a secret moment between him and me, 200 miles apart. Me, in a crowded nightclub sharing a tequila soda with my best friend. Him, in a friend's backyard more than a few beers deep. I feel the tug of the thin gold string that intrinsically holds us together, no matter how far away or for how long we are apart.

We’ve revisited the topic of marriage most every year since our relationship began in 2018. At first — I know we’re only 16, but I think I could marry you one day. Later, when we decided to start our long-distance relationship in college, it felt like a promise — if we get through these four years, we’ll definitely get married. Now, both newly 21 and exploring the boundaries of our adulthood, we hold tightly onto the promise, knowing that the future we’ve dreamed of is closer than it’s ever been.

In the present, it’s not just a dream, but a plan. Sometimes, when I miss him most, I relive conversations about the details we’ve decided on. A Texas courthouse, a backyard dinner party, an intimate celebration. I think further into the future to the neighborhoods we’ve looked at, starter homes with enough room for two (and a dog). I close my eyes and see taxes on the dining table and bookshelves full of paperbacks. I can picture grocery trips and cooking dinner, coming home from work and movies in the living room. Each moment equally imbued with the gold hue of love, crisp and complete.

When I started sharing my desire for marriage to my friends and family, I was nervous. I feared retribution for being so young, so freshly new to the world, but it didn’t come. The people who know me, and know us together, haven’t batted an eye at our choice. Despite being raised in different cultures, both our families have voiced their support. The friends I’ve had since before we started dating let me chatter excitedly about the future, sharing in the natural feeling of it all. I think we’ve always made sense, and if I allow myself the cliché, I think that kismet has had more than a little to do with our relationship.

However, the more openly I talk about getting married young, the more people who don’t know me oppose it. The comments may be teasing — no way, you’ll break up before graduation — or sometimes testing — do you actually love him? I don’t understand why the idea is so shocking to some. They’ll set up a hypothetical — if he asked you right now, would you say yes? — as if I haven’t actually thought it through. I don’t find a point in convincing them if they’ve already decided that I’m making the wrong decision. And although their comments have never made me question myself or my partner, it has made me wonder why they’re so opposed. The culture around intimacy in college and young adulthood has pushed back against permanent commitment. But it is a choice that is so personal, one that can’t be constrained to the expectations of others.

Marriage at 23 isn’t everyone’s path, nor should it be. I’m not an advocate for marriage at the earliest possibility, but for marriage when it’s right for you. The benefits of modern marriage are irrefutable: financially, physically, and emotionally. But, it’s a decision that still requires a plethora of forethought and preparation. When I look at my own life — the paths I could’ve taken and the ones that have led me to where I am now — I would never want to separate him from it. I am thankful for the years that have allowed us to grow and evolve as individuals, yet have also been kind to us as partners. I could never have predicted meeting someone like him while still so young, so unprepared for what the future would hold. But I know in my heart that he will always be there: past, present, and future. ■

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