‘Really? But you’re so young! You have your whole life ahead of you! How can you know what you want yet?’: Young married couple celebrating 11-year anniversary offer newlywed advice

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“My husband and I celebrated our eleventh anniversary this month.  I remember when I told people we were engaged. The response was almost always the same—a tilted head, a puzzled look, and a, ‘Really? But you’re so young!’ Even after I got married, people would say things like, ‘You have your whole life ahead of you! How can you know what you want yet?’ Or, my favorite, ‘Marriage is WORK, you know?’

Newly weds smile at each other and show off their wedding rings
Courtesy of Bethany McDonald
Newly weds share an intimate moment during their wedding photoshoot
Courtesy of Bethany McDonald

I remember I once told the lady giving me a pedicure that my husband was in med school. I had just found out I was pregnant with my first baby, and I was in the throes of violent morning sickness. My husband made the appointment for me as a surprise, and I was thrilled to be feeling well enough to go. ‘Is he working too?’ the woman asked, sparing me a quick glance from her work on my cuticles. ‘No,’ I explained, ‘He’s not able to. They’re so busy. It’s like being a widow sometimes!’ I chuckled wryly, and waited for her to join me.

Instead, she told me about how her sister married young, her husband went to med school, and dumped her as soon as he got a job. ‘She worked and put him through school, just like you. Men always marry up,’ she declared. She looked at me pointedly from where she sat at my feet, momentarily distracted from the dark purple polish she was painting on my toenails. ‘Just don’t be surprised.’ Yeah…I didn’t go back there.

Young married couple share a sweet embrace in their kitchen
Courtesy of Bethany McDonald

That was six years ago, when being married even ten years seemed like an eternity. I know now it’s not. And I can tell you my (not so) favorite phrase—’marriage is work’—is absolutely true. But when I think of ‘work’…well, it doesn’t sound fun. Or good. It sounds like putting on dirty clothes, grabbing a pick axe, and cramming into one of those coal miner elevators everyday. Or toiling in some cold, top floor business suite, with power suits and deadlines and a boss who makes you miserable. Work sounds like drudgery, obligation, monotony—the very last words a newly engaged person wants to associate with their new, exciting chapter of life.

So ‘marriage is work,’ yes. But I’m here to tell you newly engaged, newlywed people—it’s working at your dream job. The one you’ve always wanted. With the person you’ve always wanted to work with. And if you’re working alongside your best friend, it’s inside jokes that are a decade old, a secret handshake that’s even older, and marveling at the person they’ve grown into, while knowing they’re somehow still the same person they were before. Not to say a dream job will be perfect—nothing is. Some days suck and you’re on different wavelengths, but at the end of the day, you wouldn’t wanna work anywhere else.

Married couple pose for a family photo with their two daughters on a boardwalk
Courtesy of Bethany McDonald

So after 11 years, two kids, a pandemic, all of which have fried my brain—that’s what I have. If you’re ‘too young’ like I was, in eleven years you can look back on everything you accomplished while you were growing up, because that’s what you did—you grew up together. And maybe if you’ve already been married eleven, or twelve, or fifty years, and you come across an engaged couple and you see those giddy love sparkles in their eyes and you feel the urge to let them know what they’re in for…just smile instead. And tell them it’s gonna be awesome.”

Young married couple take a selfie on their front porch with their two young daughters
Courtesy of Bethany McDonald

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Bethany McDonald. You can follow her journey on Facebook and Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more from Bethany here:

Somehow I Am Always Pouring, Even Though My Cup Is Empty

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