This was my favorite post because I loved writing a whole series about the trials and tribulations that younger brides face and hearing from so many bees in the hive who were dealing with similar issues—it really helped me feel less alone during the tough parts of wedding planning to be a part of such a wonderful and supportive community. And re-reading this particular post reminds me of how far Mr. Star and I have come since the beginning stages of our little college romance, and it makes me excited for the many years to come.
One of the most common arguments against getting married at our age that I’ve come across is the belief that we will eventually grow apart. Is this a possibility? For sure. But isn’t it always, no matter your age?
But what really matters for making marriage happen and then making it good are not matches, but mentalities: such things as persistent and honest communication, conflict-resolution skills, the ability to handle the cyclical nature of so much of marriage, and a bedrock commitment to the very unity of the thing. I’ve met 18-year-olds who can handle it and 45-year-olds who can’t.
Mr. Star and I have had a deep and intense connection that neither of us can fully explain ever since the very beginning of our relationship, but we both know that it will take more than that to keep a (hopefully!) 60 or 70 year relationship running. We know and expect that as people and as a unit we will change as we age and continue to “grow up”, so to speak. Of course, this is true of any couple, no matter their age, but it’s especially important for young-ish couples to accept and work with. These are some of the things that have worked for us so far:
Actively taking the time to talk and “check in”: One of the best things we do for our relationship is to make sure we have the time to have truly meaningful conversations with each other, whether it be about how we want to raise our kids or what our goals for the next six months are or how we feel like our relationship has been over the past few weeks. We usually do this in bed before we fall asleep or we walk around the city at night holding hands (the hand-holding is crucial!) and bare our souls. I think a lot of couples do this, no matter their age, especially at the beginning of a relationship. The key part for us has been making sure we continue to make the time, as three years in, sometimes it’s easy to let the daily grind take over and leave us disconnected as a couple.
Creating rituals together: A really big part of growing together for us has been the process of creating “rituals” together that keep us connected and give us stories and inside jokes. Some of the most important of these rituals that we have created center around the holiday traditions that we have worked to create for the Star household. We each had our own traditions with our own families, but we have been working to pick and choose from those family traditions and add in some new things to create special holiday rituals of our own that are special to us. Another way we do this can be seen more in the day-to-day: for instance, Mr. Star always makes it a point to come meet me at the subway station whenever I’m coming home from a rehearsal or work late at night. This gives us a chance to spend time together and gives us a little “tradition” of our own. It’s things like this that we feel deepen our bond.
Finding a happy place: Sometimes the stress of our hectic lives gets the best of us and we just need a place to go chill and get back to what’s important. To some people, this might be the top of a mountain, to others it might be church, but to us, it’s the lawn in Bryant Park after dark. We love lying down in the middle of the park together at night; for some reason, it always centers us. This is our happy place:
Relationship reading: Knowing that we’re young and that we still have a lot to figure out, we’ve taken some active steps to creating a healthy and lasting relationship. One of these has been to read some books on relationships together, which we think has really helped us. We’ve taken some concrete steps to improve our relationship because of them, but our favorite part about doing this has been the conversations that the books have sparked! One of the best ones we’ve read so far has been The Five Love Languages, already reviewed in-depth by Miss Duckling!
Sharing a common thread: For us, the major common interest we share is the showbiz industry. Even if we don’t both work in it forever, I know it will always be something we can talk about and relate on. For many couples, their common thread isn’t work-related, it just so happens to be with us. Otherwise, we’re total opposites! It’s nice to at least have something that binds us, other than love, of course!
Commitment to making it work: This is something that I’ve struggled with myself, which I think is (at least partially, I know well enough to take some of the credit for myself!) fallout from being a child of divorce. But I think this is one of, if not THE, key factor in a marriage that really lasts. Mr. Star is admirably unwavering in his commitment to being with me absolutely, no matter what, 100%. He is my example of how you should approach your marriage in this regard and I have learned a lot from him. Not that I ever thought, ”˜oh well, this isn’t a permanent thing,’ but sometimes I am stricken with fear at the possibility that we won’t always want to be together. But the thing is, it’s a choice. And we both choose to be together. Forever.
Exploring the world together: One of my favorite things about being a young-ish couple is that we are getting to have so many “firsts” together. Our honeymoon will be Mr. Star’s first trip overseas, for example. Our first apartment together was our first time living away from our parents and outside of a dorm. Mr. Star has tried so many new ethnic foods with me and I attended my first real rock concert with him. You can’t buy that kind of lifelong foundation.
Creating a family: Even though we don’t have kids yet (and aren’t ready for them for at least several years), we consider ourselves a family. We have Puppy Star and Kitty Star who we spoil like children and we all treat each other like a family unit. I think having pets has really cemented for us the fact that we’re not just a loving boyfriend and girlfriend anymore, we are a family. That also gives us strength.
Teaching each other about relationships: There’s always more to learn about each other and about how to be better partners. We both have taught each other a great deal in our three years together. Mr. Star has taught me how to be more selfless and how to enjoy the present moment more, just as an example, and we continue to teach each other how to be better people every day. In the article I mentioned previously, the author makes another really great point:
Marriage actually works best as a formative institution, not an institution you enter once you think you’re fully formed. We learn marriage, just as we learn language, and to the teachable, some lessons just come easier earlier in life.
So he’s comparing learning about marriage to something like learning a foreign language – it’s A LOT easier when you start younger. Point two for us!
Encourage the other’s interests: Rather than stifling each others’ interests, we each try to take interest in them. Even if I don’t want to watch football every weekend, I know his favorite player. And even if Mr. Star doesn’t know much about dog training, he still cheers me and Puppy Star on when we learn a new trick. I think this is especially important for young-ish couples because a lot of times we don’t know exactly who we are and what we want out of life at 23, so it’s extra crucial that we allow ourselves and our partners the chance to figure all of that stuff out.
A lot of these things might seem obvious. And sure, to a lot of people they are. But they weren’t always obvious to us and they’re not things that either of us have had in previous relationships. And sure, they apply to couples of all ages. But I think it’s especially important for young-ish couples who may not have had as much life and relationship experience to keep them in mind. And sometimes we young-ish couples have to try a little harder to overcome the natural selfishness and naiveté of being in our early 20s (nobody likes you when you’re 23, anyone?).
We have already changed so much since we first fell in love: we’ve gone from sharing a dorm room to living in Manhattan and chasing our dreams, we’ve gone from bonding over a mutual hatred of cafeteria food to learning how to cook for ourselves and each other, we’ve gone from writing love notes during class to popping off the subway a stop early to visit each other at work. So much has changed for the better and for the more complicated (as transitioning into adulthood is prone to cause), but we are nothing but more connected and more of a team. We have already weathered many difficult storms, and I know that we will continue to weather what is to come.
How do you and your fiance make the effort to grow together?