The world is a sucker for love and even celebrates it yearly in all its commercial forms. Marriage, however, is another thing—especially when teenagers are involved—because convention dictates its permanence. Will a teen couple truly make it through the long haul?
The recent engagement of Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown, 19, to boyfriend Jake Bongiovi, 21, for instance, is proof of how getting engaged and marrying young still gets ripples of shock from the public. While some acknowledged she's free to make her own choices, others were quick to point out she's "too young" to make a commitment as big as marriage.
In the Philippines, 18 years old is considered the legal age for marriage.
But in the conventional world, the standard is to finish college usually at 20, find a job and start building one's career. By the time one hits the 30s, then settling down and having babies come next.
Princess Lorreine Adao, a 29-year-old entrepreneur, agrees that the twenties are a time for a woman to establish her profession and nurture her passion.
"My mother married at a very young age, in her early 20s, and from my observation, I must say that 19 is too young. It's the time when she is supposed to be exploring life, its meaning for her and the society she lives in. This is the time when a woman is exploring her passions, what her heart aches for, and who she desires to become," she told PhilSTAR L!fe.
"I don't think there's a right age for marriage. The real question lies in the preparation of the person to commit to raising a family. This goes way beyond just financial preparedness but also emotionally, mentally, physically, and most importantly, spiritually," she added.
Marla Silayan Gonzalez, former managing editor of a parenting magazine and mom to a teenager, relates that maturity, not just age, is a factor to be considered when taking the proverbial plunge. "I married in my early 40s because I was not ready for any kind of relationship before then. I did not like myself then. I had to go through counseling and dig up many things and let go of a lot of baggage," she said.
"Ideally, a person should have discovered her identity first before committing to another because there will be many times when your thoughts, reactions to events, and situations will differ from your partner. Marriage requires a give-and-take relationship," mused Gonzalez.
For Myrza Sison—a certified executive coach for confidence and life transformation—marriage happened when she turned 42 and "on purpose," she emphasized.
"Knowledge is power," she pointed out as she encouraged young couples to contemplate getting engaged/married and ask themselves the following questions:
1. Why do you want to get engaged/married at this age? Is it because you can’t wait to have sex?
"You can do this without necessarily getting married, getting pregnant, and having children right now, as long as you are emotionally and mentally mature enough to navigate the complexity of sexual relations, are well-versed and meticulous about protection and contraception, and can responsibly safeguard your sexual and reproductive health."
"There is such a thing as family planning, and you can delay having children until a time when you are ready to become the best kind of parent you can be—which comes with the optimum personal growth, maturity, and wisdom that more years of living bring. That is, if you do decide to have children," Sison advised.
2. Is it because getting married will allow you to live with the one you want to marry?
"This kind of reason speaks volumes about your maturity and capability for 'adulting' and your ability to be responsible for your decisions, actions, and life choices. As I love quoting my sister Shakira Sison’s viral tweet: 'Kapag matanda ka na, there is no such thing as hindi ka pinayagan. Hindi mo lang pinapayagan ang sarili mong maging adult, ‘yan ang problema,'" she said.
3. Is it because you’ve already found “The One” and are afraid to lose them? If you do lose them by not marrying them now, then are they truly “The One”?
"Actually, the concept of 'The One' has been so romanticized and idealized that we need to ask ourselves if it is still a valid notion in this day and age. Perhaps it needs to be reframed as 'The One I Have Decided to Marry' or 'The One Who is Right for Me at This Time in My Life.' There are many examples of marriages that didn’t work out the first time but worked out on the second or third try, so surely, there can’t only be one 'The One' for everyone," explained Sison.
Still, she believes that it's possible for people to marry young. There are many factors, however, that make the union a long-lasting connection. "As we know, so many other factors contribute to the success of marriage besides sexual compatibility, such as psychological and emotional maturity and compatibility, financial and economic stability, communication and conflict resolution skills, common life values, and goals."
"Just sorting out the effects of any kind of family dysfunction each of us is bound to inherit takes decades to process and resolve—imagine bringing that into a new relationship and the complexities it can bring."
The confidence coach also advised: "Take the time to figure out what your life purpose is, enjoy finding out in the process of living life. The world–and life—have so much to offer! So many people to meet and learn from, so many places to see, and so many enriching experiences to enjoy. Life is truly better when you take your time to savor every moment of it."
Ever after with The One
Although there's no such thing as a fairy tale ending—especially since staying married requires effort from both parties—Sison added that waiting until one is "whole and happy" is also crucial.
Good things do come to those who wait. In Sison's case, she said, "I’m glad I waited until I achieved a level of personal growth and fulfillment and the career success I was satisfied with. By the time I got married, I had enough self-knowledge and self-actualization and had solidified my identity and individuality before deciding to merge my life with someone else’s."
"Getting along with and loving yourself is hard enough, so why not wait until you learn to do this well before you merge your life with another person's life? So, choose wisely, and know that the wait (for both the right partner and for yourself to be whole) is worth it," Sison concluded.