Marrying later in life can be such a blessing!
It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you all can comment or link up your own marriage post. Today I bring you a story about God’s timing with marrying later in life from my good friend Anita Ellis.
Anita was one of the first people I got to know when I first moved to my small town. She was about my age, and we served on a praise team together at our church. Anita was always laughing, always putting others at ease, and always finding the way through the tension when different musicians started to disagree.
She’s a schoolteacher, and had an amazing way with kids. They all adored her (including my own).
But she was single. It didn’t seem to bother her, but I always wondered if she would have rather been married.
Then, a few years ago, she announced that she had met someone online. And before we knew it she had up and moved to the southern United States from cold Canada! And it is such FUN to watch her on Facebook, and to see how happy she and Richard are together. We’ve visited when they came up to say hello, and I hope to see her one day when I speak down there.
I’ve written a lot lately about the benefits of marrying young, but I thought it may be time for a different perspective. And so I asked my friend Anita to write about what it’s like to marry later in life.
I remember being asked, as a girl, when I expected to marry.
“When I’m 99,” was my reply.
I don’t think I was being flippant; I was full of plans for the future. Marriage was just never a goal for me. I saw it as something that might happen along my life’s path, but not a destination in my journey. When my siblings and most of my friends all married within months of me acquiring my teacher’s certificate, I began to wonder if perhaps I had been gifted with prophesy as a child!
As it turns out, my “prediction” was off by 56 years. At the age of 43, I stepped away from my contented single life in Canada to marry an American, and move to Arkansas, a place I would not have been able to find on a map a few years before.
Some advantages to marrying later in life
I refer to my husband as “my life’s biggest surprise”. I never really expected to marry, and certainly never considered living anywhere but in my beloved Canada, until God tangled my life’s path with Ricci’s. And though I catch myself saying things like, “I wish we had met years ago, so that I could have loved you longer,” I know that when we met, fell in love and married were the perfect time for that. God ‘s hand was very evident to us in bringing us together. There are no regrets here. The way I see it, there are several advantages to marrying later.
When You Marry Later You Know Yourself
It amazes me to see couples marry in their early 20’s. I don’t doubt their love, or their ability to make their marriage work.
My reaction stems from the fact that I was nowhere near ready for marriage at that age. I needed to explore my own potential before I could share myself with someone else. Taking some time to be on my own gave me the opportunity to test my limits, to challenge myself, to fail, to develop resourcefulness and independence. I learned to treasure friendships, value solitude, know God as my partner.
When I look back on who I was in my 20’s, I realize that I didn’t really know myself. I was trying to figure out who I was. I needed to come to a place where I accepted myself before I could open up my heart to someone else. It just took me longer than most!
I am still a work in progress, but the fact is I know who I am a lot better than I did in my 20’s. No doubt, this is partly due to being in my 40’s. I am more comfortable in my own skin, less concerned about what others might think, and know what I want and need so much better than I did in my 20s. I know that I can manage on my own, but am so thankful that I now walk hand in hand with someone who not only values my independence, but encourages me to continue to grow and explore new opportunities. Maturity has brought me a healthier outlook on life and the ability to contribute to our relationship in a positive way.
When You Marry Later You Get a Greater Appreciation for Marriage
Being single into my 40s meant that I needed to learn to take care of most things myself. Good thing I was independent! I was happy to limit my home repair achievements to some minor victories over leaky toilets and furniture assembly, leaving the rest to my handyman.
I juggled all of the responsibilities of being a home owner, busy teacher, involved church member, friend and family member, on my own. I didn’t complain; that’s just how life was. But when I married, suddenly there was someone else there to share in the daily stuff of life. We each bring our abilities and strengths to the daily grind. He can fix things, loves to work out in the yard (I still do a happy dance over that one), is great at managing finances and doesn’t blink when dealing with the encroachment of nature in the house. (Why, why, why are the insects so large in Arkansas?)
I cook, keep us organized, do a lot of the cleaning and spare him from having to set foot inside a grocery store, which apparently puts me in the category of a minor superhero. When we have tasks that are a bit onerous, when we’ve had a long day, we share the load. I think we have a deeper appreciation for what each of us contributes to our life together because we spent years trying to manage everything on our own.
Marrying Later Gave Me More Realistic Expectations
Being single for my 20’s and 30’s allowed me to get a better handle on my expectations in life. While once upon a time I may have hoped Prince Charming might eventually sweep me off to some deliriously blissful existence, having to manage on my own taught me that along with the bliss comes a whole lot of ordinary and a sprinkling of pain. As I navigated the highs and lows of my journey, I came to understand more clearly that it’s easy to share joy, but it takes a special person to stick with you through the mundane and the pain.
Maturity means that Ricci and I didn’t get caught up in unrealistic expectations of what this relationship would bring. Oh, he definitely swept me off my feet, but I didn’t expect him to complete me. I was a complete person already, though he has added so much more to my life than I could ever have imagined.
I didn’t expect married life to be all roses and Hallmark cards. We talked a lot, about everything, during our courtship. The same could not be said for when I was younger, when I was acutely aware of my failings and didn’t want anyone to know how horribly flawed I was. Now in our “middle years”, we knew what life was like, and that we needed to be sure about each other if we were to consider sharing our lives together; retirement and old age are a lot closer when you’re in your 40’s than when you’re in your 20’s! We were real with each other, at times brutally honest. We asked tough questions. We challenged each other. We prayed together. We laughed and played games together. We shared in the everyday normal stuff of life whenever we could.
Marrying Later Gave Me a Healthier Perspective
Maturity has also provided me with perspective that I would not have had twenty years ago.
I had braced myself for impact when we married, thinking of all of the stories and comments I had heard over the years from friends and family with regards to adjusting to married life.
But our transition into marriage was surprisingly smooth. We didn’t get caught up in all of the little stuff that friends assured us was so annoying. Yes, I usually have to mop up after he has done the dishes and extract his “I can still wear that” laundry from our bathroom linen closet. No, he hasn’t fully bought into “fiber is your friend”, either. But then, I’m sure that my tendency to leave my “I will deal with that later” piles on the table or continual attempts to introduce strange vegetables and foreign dishes into the menu stretch him a little too. And let’s face it, if he didn’t check up on our rather parched house plants now and then, they would be enjoying the plant afterlife in our compost pile.
The truth is, maturity has given us the gift of seeing the bigger picture, and not sweating the small stuff. At this stage in life, we have a better idea of what is really worth fighting for (or over).
We also have a keen awareness of the fragility of life. I’m not entirely sure when my joints started making those weird creaking noises, but it is my treacherous eyesight that has become my preoccupation lately. When did manufacturers start to make the eye of needles so small? Retirement savings are now very much a priority. Proper nutrition and exercise are growing concerns as we realize these bodies need care to stand the test of time, in the face of obvious signs of aging in our parents.
That youthful gift of the sense of invulnerability has been replaced with an appreciation of “today”. While we still eagerly make dreams and plans for the future, we are mindful that tomorrow holds few guarantees. This perspective has resulted in an attitude of gratitude in our marriage, of making the moments count, and of pouring the most we can into each other.
Marrying Later Helped Me Achieve Financial Know-How
Some people are naturally very good at managing money; I am not one of those individuals!
It was a long, hard road for me in my 20’s trying to keep my head above water financially. I had student loans, a car loan, credit card debt, living expenses and only a few sticks of used furniture to my name when I graduated from university; my starting salary only stretched so far.
Starting out in my career demanded so much of my time, energy and resources, there was little left for anything, or anyone, else. It took me years to be able to afford to fully furnish my little apartment and to establish myself in my career. There is much to be said for job security and less debt.
Marrying later in life meant that we were both in a more stable place, financially. This is not at all to mean that we have money to burn, rather, we manage it much more effectively than we did in our younger adult years. We are better equipped, now, to handle those unexpected expenses that pop up. Currently, we are living on one salary while I am a full time master’s student. There is not a lot of extra money to go around, but we are in a much more secure place than we would have been 20+ years ago.
A not-so-late bloomer?
Each of us has a unique journey through this life. My own involved marrying quite a bit later than most, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I know that everything was all in God’s good timing, and nothing I experienced came as a surprise to Him. I don’t look back and wonder why it took me so very long to be ready and to find Ricci. When I look back on my life’s path, I see God’s hand leading and directing me forward in His plan for me. Marriage was a part of that plan, and it has been such a blessing.
It’s been a blessing to stand on the sidelines and watch God work in Anita’s life, too!
All of this is to say that there isn’t a perfect time to get married–there’s only God’s time. I think in our wider culture we discourage early marriages too much. But perhaps in our Christian culture we make people feel badly if they don’t marry early. I do think we need to raise kids to be ABLE to marry young–but let’s never assume that that is God’s plan for everyone. God’s timing is great, and ultimately it’s all about Him.