Getting married young. What say you?
May 6, 2009 10:29 AM   Subscribe

I'm young (18 now) and am considering the possibility of marrying soon (summer 2010?). Both she and I work hard at our school and still have significant plans for our education afterwards. What advice would you give?

I'm fairly well off financially (almost $20k in savings right now). She and I both have academic scholarships--I have a full ride (tuition + books + ~$10k stipend) to college, and she has tuition covered, so we're not running ourselves into debt while in college, especially after considering summer jobs/internships. I'll be graduating May 2012 with multiple degrees (Computer Engr+Math) and skills to go with them, and I'm not at all worried about finding a solid job at that point or continuing on with grad school. I'm hoping to be able to afford a down payment on a house shortly after the marriage, maybe a year or two later at most, to get us started off well.

A little more background for detail's sake, in case it helps:
1) As for how far this money goes, we're not dealing with SoCal cost of living here. Houses are $60-$120k around here, gas is $1.80, and cost of living overall is fairly light compared to other parts of the US.
2) She's 16 now and would be entering college in the fall after we marry. She'll be graduating a semester early (December 09) and then taking classes at a community college to finish out her senior year and get a head start on the college classes (physiology followed by med school).

What things would you advise us to consider? I'm looking more for practical (financial, logistical) advice than emotional ("have you considered _____ in your relationship?") advice, but I certainly don't want to rule out anything offered.

[Anon because a lot of friends/family aren't aware of this yet and my username is easily found by people who know me. I'd like to plan things a bit better before letting them know.]
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (83 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Wait to get married. What's the rush?
posted by Kangaroo at 10:34 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Make sure you've fully discussed these questions.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:34 AM on May 6, 2009 [15 favorites]

Do you really want to take a chance that she'll get into a college close enough to you? What if she doesn't get in? Because right now you seem pretty sure that you'll both be in the same area. Things happen, both good and bad, that can keep people apart.
posted by theichibun at 10:36 AM on May 6, 2009

I think that being married while going to college at that age would be logistically very, very difficult. The first year of marriage, in my experience, is hard -- even if you know you've done the right thing, are sure about your spouse, have lived together before -- it's a huge adjustment. Likewise, college is a huge adjustment. In 2010 it sounds like she will just be starting college. Asking her to learn to be a college student and to learn to be a wife at the same time is asking an awful lot. Asking you to keep up college and learn to be a husband is asking a lot. So my advice would be to wait until she was done with school, or at least halfway done, so you aren't both trying to adjust to too many things at once.
posted by dpx.mfx at 10:37 AM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Even though you may have a good sum for a down payment - how is your credit?

Being so young I'd think that you don't have much of a credit history - something that would be important in getting a loan for a home. Maybe you're thinking that someone (a parent) would co-sign on a home loan, but don't bet on it, especially if they think the marriage - at such a young age - is a bad idea.

Also, it may be difficult to get a loan in you don't have an income, and it doesn't sound like you'll be pursuing a steady career/job until after you've graduated with your degrees.

Best of luck.

I got married when I was 21 - YOUNG. It's a tough road.
posted by Sassyfras at 10:39 AM on May 6, 2009

This will sound like emotional advice, but it is practical advice: I would guess that most people will tell you that the person you are at 18 is vastly different from the person you are at, say, 22. Think carefully about that. It sounds like you have a lot of plans that are built on the assumption that you will not change at all during your college years.
posted by Houstonian at 10:39 AM on May 6, 2009 [24 favorites]

It didn't look like you included it, but unless morally-opposed to it, I would advise living together for a bit before you marry. This will provide a good bit of perspective on its own (financial, logistical, and emotional).
posted by seppyk at 10:39 AM on May 6, 2009

sticking to your request for financial advice:

I would look at housing for college/med school. When my husband applied to business school, our best choice did not have married housing and it was a huge factor.

It could also hinder her ability to qualify for grant money during college. If you are filing taxes as a married couple, the money you are making could put her out of the running for money she may be well qualified for on her own.
posted by agentwills at 10:40 AM on May 6, 2009 [5 favorites]

Wait to get married. There's no rush, and college is a big life change that can bring about changes in both of you.
posted by honeybee413 at 10:40 AM on May 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

Don't do it. Wait until you've both got degrees at least, for goodness's sake.

You are really way too young to do that shit.
posted by kldickson at 10:40 AM on May 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

I think it's a bad idea and that you should wait to get married. You are just too young. I'm sure you don't feel like that now, and I'm sure hearing that pisses you off, but in 5 years from now when you reflect on your life thus far you will totally understand.

And, even above your age, SHE is definitely too young.
posted by sickinthehead at 10:50 AM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

The first year of marriage, in my experience, is hard -- even if you know you've done the right thing, are sure about your spouse, have lived together before -- it's a huge adjustment.

This. We were married last fall. I'm 34 and we'd lived together for nearly 4 years, and it's STILL difficult. I would never have been mature enough at 18. I was a totally different person then, and so was he. WAIT. She might absolutely be the right person for you, but it takes a lot of maturity to hold a marriage together, and at 16 and 18 I just can't fathom that you have it. I know I would have been pissed off to hear this when I was 18, but unlik your family or others who might try to dissuade you, I have no agenda.
posted by desjardins at 10:50 AM on May 6, 2009 [6 favorites]

I would do some pre-marriage counseling together within the next year.
posted by studentbaker at 10:51 AM on May 6, 2009 [6 favorites]

I got married at 18, halfway through my freshman year. Turned out that 3 years later I had changed, oh, about as much as I had changed in the previous 6 years. The marriage ended. College got a lot better when it did.

I promise you that most people, as in 98% of people, will change dramatically - emotionally, mentally and quite possibly even physically - in the years between 18 and 22. Your girlfriend is 16? In two years she will be a very different person. You know this - are you the same person you were two years ago? Be honest. The daughter who came from my teenage marriage is 26 now. The woman she is now is nothing like the girl she was at 18 and if she'd married her then boyfriend she'd be divorced by now. My son is 17. He's not in any way, shape or form old enough to get married.

You think that much change is normal now because it has been that way all your life. That's because you have been - and still are - growing. All that growth levels out in your mid twenties and then is the time to begin thinking about marriage. Until then, let it be. You have plenty of time. I know it doesn't seem like it but honestly, there's all the time in the world. I mean, don't you want to be able to legally drink champagne at your wedding?
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:51 AM on May 6, 2009 [11 favorites]

I know several couples made of high school sweethearts who got married.

The ones who are still married all got married after they finished college.

Don't do it now unless you're looking forward to a divorce in a few years.
posted by grouse at 10:52 AM on May 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

She's 16 now and would be entering college in the fall after we marry.

The one, and possibly only thing I've learned in my three decades of experience with women is that all of them undergo a fundamental personality shift around age 18-20. Sometimes the person that emerges on the other side is someone you still want to talk to. Sometimes the person that emerges on the other side is someone that doesn't want to talk to you.

I highly recommend waiting a couple of years.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:54 AM on May 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

Financial: why buy a house so soon? Do you want to stay there, or are you looking at this as an investment while the market is down? Check rent vs buy calculators, because you could actually save money by renting, unless you're assuming to get some good returns on your investment in a few years.

Emotional: how long have you been a couple? And the fact that you're both teen-agers is huge to me. I got married in my late 20s, and I couldn't see the version of me, ten years ago, getting married and really grasping it all. Really, what's the rush? Are you afraid you'll lose each-other if you don't get bound by marriage?
posted by filthy light thief at 10:54 AM on May 6, 2009

Definitely wait. People who knew me when I was 19, that I met back up with at 25, hardly recognized me as the same person (even if I was visually identical). Unless you're hoping to do the vagina-as-clown-car thing with respect to kids, there's no reason to rush. Wait until she's out of college. Really.
posted by notsnot at 10:55 AM on May 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

Congratulations on the financial front. You are already off to a good start.

You will notice that it's difficult to find people who will tell you that getting married young is a good idea. There is a reason for that, and as you get older it will become apparent, but it's a difficult thing to see when you are young and in love. (And I say that as someone who got married at 20 and is still happily married nearly 32 years later -- I wouldn't do it that way again.)

There's nothing wrong with continuing to be boyfriend and girlfriend. There's nothing wrong with having a long and loving engagement. But no 17-year-old girl needs to be married.
posted by sageleaf at 10:55 AM on May 6, 2009 [13 favorites]

what does marriage mean to you? If it is a series of abstractions and ideals and ideas, just say no. Everyone I know who contemplated getting married at that age or even before 25 and didn't has not regretted it. You'll have a lot of changes to go through in the next few years that are beyond your foresight and control right now. You sound like a pretty responsible pair, but don't be too responsible. You only live once.
posted by iamnotateenagegirl at 10:58 AM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

College + marriage usually = bad idea.

It isn't that you're too young to get married. I don't know you from Adam, and people have been marrying earlier than that for millennia. That's not the issue.

The issue is that you're about to radically change your life in ways that you cannot predict. If you were going to graduate from high school and get a job--though heaven help you with that in this economy--I'd say go for it. You aren't really waiting for anything to happen at that point, as there isn't any concrete reason to think that your life tomorrow isn't going to more-or-less resemble your life today. Your life isn't going to get any more stable than it would already be in that case.

But going to college pretty much inherently involves living with a huge amount of instability for four or more years. This is very, very hard on relationships. And there's nothing to say that your professional ambitions and hers might not pull you in opposite directions, literally and metaphorically. What if you find a job in Seattle and she in Atlanta? What then? In the meantime, how the devil are you going to pay for health insurance, which is a lot more expensive for marrieds than singles? And what if she gets pregnant?

And if you think college is bad for marriages, just wait until you get to med school. I get the distinct impression that you don't have the first clue of how demanding that is. Your girlfriend will go wherever she has to for medical school, then wherever she has to for residency, and then wherever she has to to get a job. She'll be moving at least three times as a result, and will have absolutely no time for things like being married. My parents did it. They suffered for it and wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

The long and short of it is that you probably shouldn't get married until your life has reached something like stability, and you're each about to enter the single least stable point in your lives. If you want to marriage right, it has to be your first commitment, not just one priority among many. Until you even know what your priorities are, you should definitely wait.
posted by valkyryn at 10:59 AM on May 6, 2009 [6 favorites]

I was but a wee child at age 18, barely able to make my bed and drive a car in a straight line. Through my 20s, I changed. A lot. Relationships I had with people in my 20s seem absurd to me now. Relationships I had when I was 16? Whoa!

Seriously, wait. You'll be glad you did.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 10:59 AM on May 6, 2009

I'm not at all worried about finding a solid job at that point or continuing on with grad school.

Oh really? The people who are graduating now weren't worried 4 years ago, either, and look at how bad things are. My brother-in-law has been out of school for almost 5 months, and he still can't find a job. You don't know what the future will bring. Things will happen that will throw you for a loop. If the whole getting married thing is contingent on life being perfect from the day you say "I do", with everything falling magically into place (school, career, house), reconsider.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:59 AM on May 6, 2009 [5 favorites]

Bro, you are both going to change in the next few years. Not saying this will change your relationship, but it's in your best interest to hold out and maintain a normal relationship throughout college (which is hard enough). After college would be a great time to re-evaluate your relationship.
posted by OuttaHere at 11:01 AM on May 6, 2009

Being so young I'd think that you don't have much of a credit history - something that would be important in getting a loan for a home.

I don't have much insight into the whole getting married early thing, but this is a very good point on the financial side. When applying for a home loan, they will look at a lot of things, including your savings, income, and job history, but your credit score will be a big factor. The exact formula for calculating the score is a secret, but if you've never had a loan before it will be very low.

One good way to build up your score without really doing anything is to apply for a student credit card (one without an annual fee) and then just not use it (or use it only in emergency situations, as long as you never miss a payment). Every month your account stays open and you're not delinquent on your payments, your score will go up a notch. After several years of that, you can end up with a good score without ever actually paying any interest. Also, if you take out any student loans (even if you don't have to start making payments until after you finish school) those will help your score as well.

Also, keep in mind that buying a home isn't a big requirement at your age. Renting won't cost you much more (if anything, depending on local factors) than paying for property taxes, home maintenance, mortgage interest, etc. Plus renting gives you more flexibility in deciding where to live during and after college. It's more important at your age financially to start building an emergency fund, saving money for retirement (a Roth IRA is a good choice), controlling your spending by creating a budget, and making sure you don't get into credit card debt.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:01 AM on May 6, 2009

Why do you guys want to get married at 17 and 19, respectively? Are there specific advantages to being married, rather than dating or living together, that would accrue to you?

Like others on the thread, I know people who have been married for 10+ years to their high school sweethearts. But they didn't get married until after both parties had finished college.

Everyone I know who got married before age 21 got divorced before age 30. I'm talking about a sample size of between twenty-five and thirty people here, which is not huge, but it's something to think about.

It seems to me like you're in a big hurry to do "grown-up" things like getting married and buying a house. What's the rush? At 44, I really value the different experiences I had in my twenties.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:01 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Why do you want to get married?

Seriously. I'm not 100% against marrying young, but you need to very clearly understand your motivations and hers. As much as I loved my high school sweetheart, I would not have considered marrying him at 18.

If you're thinking that marriage makes things more secure, then I have to say that it doesn't. Marriage is in some ways a huge risk (with corresponding rewards). There's always a risk that two people will mature in different directions. For two young adults who are embarking on college, that risk is enormous.

If you'd like to have children during your college years, you should consider how practical that will be at your choice of schools.
posted by 26.2 at 11:01 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wait. People change a lot from the ages of 18-24 or so, whether they go to college or not. If you're still together when you finish college, there's nothing from stopping you from getting married then. The guy I planned to marry when I was 17 and 18 was not the guy I ended up marrying. That's not to say things definitely wouldn't work out for you -- my aunt and uncle have been together since they were 12 -- but there's no reason to get married so early.

There are only really two reasons to get married. The first is for legal benefits, the second is to prove your love to each other and the world.

As far as legal benefits go, there's not going to be anything in college where you two will need to be married; it's unlikely either of you is going to have time for a job that would offer any kind of benefits, much less benefits to a spouse. You probably won't be making enough money to worry about tax benefits.

As for the second... if it's something that needs to be done to prove your love to anyone, especially each other, then that's a big warning sign that you should not get married yet. If you don't already trust each other enough to know that getting married would just be a formality, then it's too early to get married. When I was with the first guy I wanted to marry, the constant anxiety of "what if we don't get married?" should have been a clue it was a bad idea, but I didn't have the perspective yet. For the first several years I was with my husband, the same anxiety, in retrospect, was because our relationship, though strong, was not yet strong enough. In both cases, though, I would have said the relationship was absolutely perfect, which is absurd because I felt like marriage was necessary or something was wrong.

My husband and I didn't get married until we'd been together six years and lived together five. By that time it seemed almost a boring inconvenience to go through the legal legwork and we didn't even bother to have a wedding since it seemed irrelevant. I wouldn't change that for the world. The only reason we even got around to it then was because he graduated graduate school and got a great job that provides benefits to a spouse. Being married has had zero impact on our relationship.

In other words, if you ask yourself the question, "Why do I want to marry her?" and the only reason you have is, "Because I love her and it will make her happy," then don't do it. You get all of that without being married. If you don't, then there's a problem. I wish someone had told me this at your age.

If your relationship is strong, you can get to the point where getting married doesn't seem important. You have nothing to lose by waiting it out, but a lot to lose by getting married too early.

I also want to say that without exception, every single person I know now -- I'm 24 -- is an entirely different person than they were at 16, and most are very different from who they were at 18. You wouldn't recognize them.
posted by Nattie at 11:04 AM on May 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

But no 17-year-old girl needs to be married.

Repeated for emphasis.
posted by tristeza at 11:04 AM on May 6, 2009

This straddles emotional and practical, but realize that when presented with facts, cold hard facts, regarding money, or anything else, but especially money, it is possible, likely, that you will both come to very different conclusions from those facts. Marriage is a great teacher in that you are taught a deep lesson about mental autonomy. Be kind during disagreements; err on the side of humility and compromise. Congratulations on your engagement and I wish you all the best.
posted by milarepa at 11:04 AM on May 6, 2009

why are you in such a hurry? what do you see as the pros of getting married at 19 and 17? The cons? If all of your cons are financial or logistical and all your pros are emotional because you think you have got the emotional part all wrapped up, think again. Marriage is very wonderful at times and very tough at others and certainly there will be things you can't control that will impact your relationship. Minimum wait until both of you have atleast a year of college under your belt. That first year away from home and high school friends can make a big difference on what you want for your future.

If you love her, i hope you are together for the next 70 years, but getting married now won't be the thing that guarentees that. Having the maturity and commitment to work out every financial, logistical and emotional roadblock is and that is a pretty tall order for most people your age.

I am trying not to be condescending, but i have an almost 14 year old girl. The thought of her even considering marriage at 16 freaks me right out.
posted by domino at 11:05 AM on May 6, 2009

A lot of people here will tell you to wait, and I'm not going to suggest otherwise, but I do want to point out that waiting really depends on cultural values.

I got married early, in part due to heavy pressure from my very religious family, and I regret that now, years after the inevitable divorce. If it hadn't been for that pressure and some pretty nasty health care restrictions, I would've waited.

You're both very young and if it's a cultural and logistical possibility, a few more years spent making absolutely sure you want to spend your lives together wouldn't hurt. Believe me when I say that the last thing you want is to get married in the next year, get divorced three years later, and then try to start dating again in your mid-twenties with a divorce under your belt - it will limit your options like you wouldn't believe no matter how attractive or successful you are.

Note that I'm not saying you would get divorced, just that right now you're young and in love and it's hard to objectively assess how truly nasty the failure case can be. Spend a few years living together first, then decide if that's a commitment you're ready to make.

Oh, the other bit of advice I wish someone had told me: get a fucking pre-nup. No matter how much it can ruin the mood, no matter how much it seems like planning for divorce, get a fucking pre-nup. You absolutely and unequivocally want this, especially as the male in the arrangement.

That said, I totally understand wanting to live the dream. Best of luck either way.
posted by Ryvar at 11:06 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

People grow in their teens and 20s. A lot. You two might grow together wonderfully, or you might grow apart. You can't tell beforehand how it's gonna turn out.
posted by Jon_Evil at 11:07 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm fairly well off financially (almost $20k in savings right now).

Prenup. Seriously. Especially for the reasons everyone else is warning you about.
posted by hermitosis at 11:14 AM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm uncertain about the scope of your question but I would suggest searching the Mefi archives. Key words searches on "cohabitation" and "marriage" yield questions which may be relevant to your situation. Similarly, explore the tag of "money and relationships." Although the questions from that joint tag do not address some of the idiosyncrasies of your situation, they do provide the desired “practical (financial, logistical) advice.”

Also, I would suggest postponing the marriage. If you're meant to be together for the rest your lives, you can postpone the marriage. Additionally, it's conceivable that pressure of marriage will actively disadvantage relationship, especially as you're so young. Simply, don’t push the relationship beyond its limit for a given time.

In any event, best wishes.
posted by kiki_s at 11:20 AM on May 6, 2009

My parents married at 17, while still in high school. They focused on Dad's college career first, and then once he was established, Mom worked on her BS with night/summer school stuff.
They are still together, 39 years later. It is doable. But it was not easy.
posted by nomisxid at 11:21 AM on May 6, 2009

On preview - everyone had already said what I was going to re: medical school, moving around, and home ownership not necessarily being a great idea for college students.

So I'll just say this: One of my close high school friends got married to his sweetheart their freshman year of college. It was really, really tough. They made huge compromises and it did not work out at all like they had hoped. As far as I know they are still together (~14 years later - I lost touch with him about 5 years ago). I doubt he would do it the same way over again.
posted by jeoc at 11:23 AM on May 6, 2009

She might end up feeling like she got married too young and may cheat on you. That is to say if you don't cheat on her first.
posted by anniecat at 11:24 AM on May 6, 2009

Are one or both of you not willing to have sex before marriage? If so, take a thorough inventory of your haste and try to figure out how much of your haste to marry is based on sexual urgency. Be honest.
posted by hermitosis at 11:25 AM on May 6, 2009 [29 favorites]

They focused on Dad's college career first, and then once he was established, Mom worked on her BS with night/summer school stuff.

This is what my husband and I did (although we were a little older when we married), and I do not recommend it. It closed a lot of doors for me, career-wise. DH is doing exactly what he wanted to do, and I'm making do.

I've (mostly) made my peace with it, but if I had it to do over again I would not go this route again.
posted by jeoc at 11:27 AM on May 6, 2009 [4 favorites]

....and hermitosis hits the unspoken target. This is how purity rings and hormones lead to bad decisions.
posted by sageleaf at 11:28 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would advise you to wait and see how your relationship changes once she enters college. There's no guarantee that your relationship will take a turn for the worse, but it will change. I entered college 3 months before my 18th birthday, and I watched as many other colleagues went through serious breakups with long-time high school sweethearts. If your love is strong enough to withstand this stress, then your love is strong enough to wait a little while longer.

I'm getting married in 2 weeks, and we've been dating for 4 and a half years. I knew she'd be the one within 3 months of dating, but all the same, both of us have changed significantly in that time. We've cohabited for most of that time, with the exceptions being the first 4 months of our relationship, and 9 months where I was at school in a different state. You guys can be all-but-legally married in essence, and that's enough. There are a LOT of legal implications to being married, and I urge you not to rush.

As far as buying a house, unless you're absolutely sure you'll be in the area for a long while, hold out on it. I ended up moving so many times in my early 20s, and the ability to just uproot at the end of an apartment lease was very convenient.
posted by explosion at 11:33 AM on May 6, 2009

Going to have to nth the question of why you two are wanting to get married so young. I'm not flat out saying don't do it (although I think 17 is too young regardless), but I'm curious what your motivation is for doing this before either of you are even done being teenagers. Speaking for myself, I changed a great deal between the ages of 18 and 25; I dated the same guy during that entire period, and when we split I barely resembled the girl he got together with at the beginning. It was one of the major reasons we broke up.

Props for having your shit together already, but I think you should seriously examine your motivations, your commitment, what will happen if/when either of you fundamentally changes, etc. I urge you to seek premarital counseling if you decide to go through with it, at the very least. If nothing else, neither of you are probably well-versed in good communication within a relationship and it would help to get professional help with that if you are serious about getting married at this stage. (Or any stage, really, but especially now.)
posted by asciident at 11:34 AM on May 6, 2009

I have lots of friends that married their high school or early college sweethearts and for some it seems to be working out fine. The difference between the ones who are doing fine and the ones who aren't? The ones with healthy relationships waited. They still ended up together and married, but they waited until they were finished with college or nearly so and ready to move into the world as adults together.

College is expensive and stressful, and deciding where you will be and how you will live afterwards can be even more stressful. If you can get through that together you will know you have a strong foundation.
posted by ohio at 11:36 AM on May 6, 2009

I know several couples made of high school sweethearts who got married.

The ones who are still married all got married after they finished college.

Don't do it now unless you're looking forward to a divorce in a few years.
posted by grouse at 10:52 AM on May 6

This. I came here to say nearly the same thing. Many of the high school sweethearts I know even went to college 1000s of miles apart from eachother and still ended up together after graduating.

Why rush it?
posted by dearest at 11:40 AM on May 6, 2009

As a data point, I'm twenty-five, and I've never met anyone in my age group who married before 22 and is still married. College, no college, it didn't matter. I strongly recommend waiting. Even more specifically, I recommend waiting until you've gotten your degrees, and until you've lived together at least a year after being done with school. School is weird and requires a lot of adjusting, but the real world requires even more. Until you know what it's like for you both to have day jobs, how you deal with the stress of making a living and making ends meet, you really don't know whether you're truly long-term compatible. By all means, get engaged whenever you feel like you are ready. Just don't be surprised if things change.
posted by Caduceus at 11:47 AM on May 6, 2009

Emotional advice: at 18 and 16 respectively, neither of you has had much or possibly any (at least in her case) time to learn how to live on your own, taking care of yourself and making your own choices as independent adults. It sounds as if you're proposing to go from living with your parents to living with your spouse. I think this cuts both of you off at the knees in terms of some very important learning and growing time. I'm not saying you'll each be completely different people in 5 years (though you might well be), but instead that if you jump from your parents' house into your married life together you'll cheat yourselves out of learning some valuable tools that can help you make a successful marriage. I'm not opposed to marrying young, but I would caution against marrying without experiencing autonomy and responsibility on your own, at least for a while.

Practical advice: are you proposing to buy a house in the town where you're currently attending school? And are you expecting that your partner will get into med school, a residency, and ultimately a full-time job in that same town? And are you also expecting that you'll be able to find a job in this town as well? Seriously? My point is, I wouldn't take a bleak view of your employment prospects--people are hiring, it's not impossible for a smart and motivated college grad to find a job--but at the moment and for the foreseeable future (and even in a good economy) it serves a new graduate well to have a certain amount of flexibility in where s/he can take a job. And particularly if your school has a respected program in a certain field, I think it's a safe bet to assume that the surrounding area has a glut of specialists in whatever field that is. Regardless of whether you marry as planned, I'd forgo purchasing a house until each of you is relatively stable in your chosen careers.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:55 AM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

You're madly in love, and that's sweet, but so was I when I was your age (and the girl was around the same age as well).

That was 4 girlfriends, three jobs, two degrees and three cities ago.

Number of regrets? Zero.

Give it some time. You'll get better gifts when you're in your twenties and your friends have money anyway.
posted by davey_darling at 12:19 PM on May 6, 2009 [8 favorites]

I think you're a little young to get married, and she is in fact underage, so you want to watch that. But while I agree with the sense of the thread that you should not be getting married at such a young age, something tells me you won't listen to us. So I have to ask you to consider if you really need to be doing all three of these very stressful things at once-- college, marriage, and BUYING A HOUSE? (You don't say if your college is in a different town. If so, add a fourth stressor.)

wtf, dude. At the very least, don't buy a house.

As the mother of a couple of (slightly older) young adults, I'd love to hear what your parents have to say about all this.
posted by nax at 12:21 PM on May 6, 2009

Also, after re-reading your post I have some general life advice that might help. Both of you have made a lot of very specific and ambitious plans:

For you:
- Get married at 19.
- Meet scholarship requirements throughout your college career.
- Graduate at a specific time with multiple specific degrees.
- Save for, find, and buy a house between 20-22.
- Have no problems finding a job or getting into grad school.

For her:
- Get married at 17.
- Graduate high school early and take community college classes.
- Meet scholarship requirements throughout her college career.
- Getting a degree in physiology and moving on to med school.

There's nothing wrong with making ambitious plans, in fact it's a great way to get where you want to be in life at any given time. But more important is realizing that plans can change, and that life has a way of throwing us curveballs when we aren't expecting them. Every item in both of your lists could go wrong in some way, and although that doesn't mean you should change your plans, it does mean you should keep in mind that you may want to keep your options open. For example, most of my friends in college changed their majors at some point, many of them graduated later than they expected to, most of them went through break-ups, some of them lost their scholarships, a few of them dropped out, some of them decided not to go to med school, many moved to places they never would have expected moving to, and a few of them couldn't find a decent job after graduating. And I'm sure if you asked any of them they would tell you that they never could have predicted any of the things that would end up defining that period of their lives.

The point is that the next few years of your life, and really the rest of your life in general, will be very unpredictable. Your plans might end up having to be scrapped due to changes you never would have expected, and your goals and priorities might change as you get older and have more experiences. It's more important to be prepared for anything and be ready to handle anything life throws at you than it is to come up with the perfect plan for your future.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:23 PM on May 6, 2009 [3 favorites]

Are you familiar with the Stress Scale? Some of these stresses are "good" - things like getting married or having an outstanding personal achievement - but they are still stressors and I think that getting matrried with an eye towards homeownership coupled with college and professional school may be asking for more "stress" than you want. Both of you, and especially your intended bride, are going through a lot and it's worth listening to the people who have said that a lot of changes happen in early adulthood.

I also concur that her being married might work against her for grants/loans purposes.

"I'm not at all worried about finding a solid job at that point or continuing on with grad school" - You may not have trouble. But the economy is an unknown and there are always unexpected events - an illness or accident, an unplanned child, a family crisis. You want to at least have considered contingency plans for things like this.

Lastly, (IMHO)I'd give her some time to go be on her own with roommates or a dorm for a while. She will get some space to learn things about herself and will be a better person for this.

I agree with the people who advise waiting; can't see that it wold do harm and would likely be much better.
posted by pointystick at 12:23 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

2) She's 16 now and would be entering college in the fall after we marry. She'll be graduating a semester early (December 09) and then taking classes at a community college to finish out her senior year and get a head start on the college classes (physiology followed by med school).

Another data point: I started college intending to major in biology and then go on to grad school (not med school) for some sort of biology-related PhD. A year later, I was a history major with almost-minors in French and women's studies.

A lot of things can change, and will change. Better to acknowledge that from the start than pretend the plans you make at 18 will all happen as you expect over the next four or five years, because they won't.
posted by rtha at 12:37 PM on May 6, 2009

I'm young (18 now) and am considering the possibility of marrying..... She's 16 now..... What say you?

No, no, no, no, no, no.

A thousand times no, for the sake of all parties.
posted by rokusan at 12:37 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I married my high school sweetheart when I was 16 and he was 19. We were both in college and madly in love, and we were divorced a year later. Believe me, no matter how mature and ready for marriage you both think you are, chances are good you'll hardly recognize yourselves in a couple of years.

But then again, I remarried when I was 21 and my husband had just turned 18, and we're still going strong 7 years later. Honestly, we both thought it would have been wiser to wait to get married, but there were extenuating circumstances at the time that rushed things. We've both changed a lot since then, but fortunately those changes haven't made us incompatible.

It can work. It can also blow up in your face. The longer you wait, the more sure you can be that things will work out in the long run.
posted by tomatofruit at 12:39 PM on May 6, 2009

You seem to be relying on too much "what ifs" or "sure things" when it comes to your future financial security. I think you need to stop saying "this will happen" or "this is a guarantee" or "i'm sure I'll get a job" and look at what you have now and how you could have a life together right this instance. Don't believe "I'm gonna be rich tomorrow!" Focus on what you financially have right now and take stock right now with what you have and then run worse case scenarios to see how you two could survive as a married couple.

You need to be honest with yourself and realize that your whole plan revolves around these what ifs. You haven't talked to your friends or family. You claim that her tuition is covered by "scholarships". Is that true or is her family going to help pay for it? Does her family believe in helping a couple out after they get married financially or do they believe that if a couple gets married all the bills, including college tuition, is now with them? Can your 10K a year cover living expenses for two people and her college? You also claim that you'll be able to get summer jobs and internships. What if that doesn't happen? Does your current income enable you to let both of you survive on that income? Does your tuition and financial aid change if you become married? What happens if she, or you, fail your academic requirements and lose your scholarship? What happens then?

Don't make your plans "knowing" that good things will happen someday. Rather, look at what you have right now. You're a college kid not making much money. You've never really lived on your own and having to rely on your own wits, and hard work, to survive. You want to marry a 16 year old girl who doesn't have a diploma and who doesn't know how to live on her own either. Can you financially make that work? Can you both go to college and fulfill whatever dreams you end up developing? What if the best program for her is at another college across the country? Can you make the sacrifice necessary to change schools so she can succeed? How would that get paid for? If you catch yourself saying "but she'll do this" or "i'll get this job", then the answer is obviously "no".

That's one of the financial aspects of wanting to get married. Does it stop people from wanting to get married? of course not. But having an honest evaluation with yourself right now - and realize that having 20K in savings just out of high school (and assuming you lived at home during those 4 years) does not guarantee that you understand how much it costs to really live.
posted by Stynxno at 1:01 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Pretty much everyone who has a S.O. that they think they will marry and then goes to college ends up breaking up with them the first or second semester of college. Just walk through a freshman dorm hallway at night, you will see soo many people sitting in the hallway crying on the phone with their bf's/gf's, more than in any older-year dorms. There are just to many temptations in college, from finding your freedom for the first time to meeting SO many new people and realizing there was stuff in life you didn't get to do and still want to do before getting married. It sucks, but it can be good for you! And sure there's a chance that you guys will still want to be together through college, but then wait! If you're going to spend the rest of your lives together, it can wait a couple more years. It would just suck if you ended up losing your savings from getting married too early to the wrong girl, and that's practical advice. It would also be harder to bounce back from a relationship where you've been engaged or married than from a girlfriend, if you guys ended up breaking up.
posted by KateHasQuestions at 1:07 PM on May 6, 2009

Straight at 18, gay at 22. People change.
posted by mdonley at 1:09 PM on May 6, 2009 [10 favorites]

Straight at 18, gay at 22. People change.

Going to my HS sweetheart's engagement party to another woman was a good time. Perspective is something that you almost never realize you don't have.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 1:26 PM on May 6, 2009 [5 favorites]

Here's the crux: you haven't experienced enough of life yet to really know who you are and what you want. The problem is that at your age, you really really really feel that you do know both of those things. And as countless others above me have said, my saying this will likely irritate you and/or elicit your saying, "WTF? She doesn't know me. I'm totally different."

I say this, though: if I'd've married the guy I was dating at 16, I'd be in an asylum right now. And he was a pretty nice guy, not a jerk or anything obviously mismatched like that. But hoooboy, it's funny to look back on what was important to me then and what's important to me now. And I only figured things out by going on some good dates and some bad dates over the years. Good relationships taught me stuff, bad relationships taught me even more. Those things are missing from your repertoire.

What you're (contemplating) doing is akin to walking into NASA and asking to guide the shuttle because you feel in your heart you can do it and you know what's right from watching it happen on TV. The reality is that it takes a lot of experiences and a lot of good ol' time to get the feel for all the dynamics at play. Many of those dynamics are not able to be articulated; they're gut feelings that arise over the course of years of experience. You don't have those yet.

I sense, too, there is likely some religious/sexual issue here as well. It's really ok to be horny; it's the human condition (particularly in your late teens). But wanting to hit it is really not an acceptable reason for getting married, assuming that's part of your equation. All jokes aside, good sex is much like any other aspect of a relationship in that it takes patience, communication, understanding, maturity, experience, and equity. And quite frankly, often you don't get really good at those things until you've spent quite a few years on this planet (which is not to say everyone should go off and become a big ho, more that it's difficult to articulate what you want sexually and how it fits into your whole relationship if you've not had any before).

Maybe that paragraph is for naught and the 'wait till marriage' thing isn't an issue, but...even if not, I'd still say that with your very limited relationship experience, you are not yet in a position to discern what it is you like, need, or want. That's standard for that age and nothing to be ashamed of, but please embrace it. It's ok not to know something.

The best thing you can do for both of you is to give yourselves some time. There's no need to rush to get married; if you truly love and care about each other, that will survive. BUT the true, true test of any relationship is how you get through the heavy stuff. Life isn't always fair or pretty and I don't know about you, but I want to be with someone who knows how to respond effectively when the shit comes down. Your relationship hasn't been tested to that point yet. It's great that you have huge goals and expectations for yourself, but life isn't linear like that. I guarantee you there will be bumps in the road that test you as a couple and you cannot gauge what your responses will be before these things occur.
posted by December at 1:31 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

As for buying a house... I don't see how you'll be able to do that without any present income or credit history. Get a student credit card your freshman year, don't really use it, but just have it, and you'll build up credit your time in college. Then, when you graduate you'll have a job and some credit and will probably be able to get a house. I don't see how it would be possible before that.

Also, having $20K in savings is terrific. I do, too, and it's such a comfort in these trying times. I would recommend keeping most of those savings as "emergency funds" and start saving on top of that for a down payment on a house. Don't risk your life savings on a highly levered investment. (i.e. putting 10% down on a house, means if the house declines in value 10%, all your savings are gone). And, yes, I would probably call it an "investment" if you're not planning on living there for several years -- as would probably be the case with someone moving around for medical school, etc.

Now for the relationship bit, which I admittedly don't know too much about. I know two people who entered college with a serious long-distance relationship to a high-school sweetheart, expecting to get married on the other side. Well, one did and the other has gone 4 years and probably will. So it can be done. Why not do it that way? I see no downside. No sex, maybe? You can wait.
posted by losvedir at 1:38 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

When I was 17 and graduating from high school I strongly considered going the Army ROTC route. They were offering full tuition for a 4 year education, but the price was spending those 4 years in the Reserves and an additional 4 years after college in active service. I did not do it, claiming a knee injury (which was not false, I just played it up a bit). The real reason is that I was not able to make an 8 year commitment at 17.
Maybe you feel like she is, and that you are at 19. But I gotta tell you, from my experience, and from that of my close friends and family, a lot changes in that time period. Just like nearly everyone above me, I would caution you to be careful. It's good to have plans, but remember plans sometimes change (this is mostly in reference to the school things, not the marriage).
I won't tell you not to get married young. As has been said, it's happened before and worked out fine. But it has also happened before and been a total disaster.
Can you wait at least until you're both of voting age and reconsider the question at that time?
posted by purpletangerine at 2:02 PM on May 6, 2009

Of all the hundreds of couples I've met in the past 40 years or so, there's only one who married when both were 18 who are still married. It took a lot of grit and her giving up her studies and going to work for them to make it through the first few years. Luckily, they've prospered, raised two wonderful sons, and are still going strong. But, they're the exception. I look at the people I knew back then and wonder who ARE those people? Who was I? You'll both prob keep changing forever, but from now 'til 30 is the time you'll change and experiment the most. If you have to consider plans for two and constantly compromise, it will be harder to become the person you are going to be.
posted by x46 at 2:31 PM on May 6, 2009

As someone who got married at 20 and divorced at 24, I say don't do it. The guy I married was and is a great person, but I changed so much during those 4 years that despite loving one another and despite the best intentions on both our parts, our relationship got very damaged along the way. I wish I'd met him later in life after I'd had a chance to grow up a bit because I think we could have been happy together if I'd been more mature (which I didn't realize until it was already too late) when I made that commitment. For the sake of your and your girlfriend's future relationship, wait.
posted by Maisie at 2:40 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

My best advice would be: don't do this.

Here's the thing: 50% of marriages end in divorce. Not a single one of those people got married thinking, "You know what? This probably won't work out. But eh, fuck it - the caterer is paid for, might as well go though with it."

NOBODY expects their marriage to fail, at any age - and yet fail they do, in vast numbers.

This about why that might be. Did the people love each other less than you two love each other? Did they plan their futures with less care? Did they have less grand dreams?

No. They changed in ways neither of them could have predicted, because life is long and change is life. The woman you marry at 18 will not be the woman you're married to at 28. She just won't. It isn't psychologically possible.

But you're probably going to ignore all of us because we're old and what the hell do we know.

So instead, I suggest this:

Don't wait forever. Wait through one semester of college. Just one. Spend one semester with both of you in your respective colleges and see how you fare. If it doesn't radically change everything, than marvellous - carry on. If it does, you've saved yourself about 15 years of heartache.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:48 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Twenty grand in savings sounds like a lot, but you'd be surprised at how quickly you can go through that amount. For example, I had almost double that in savings at one time (I was already married and older than you), then got laid off from my job. My next job had very bare bones health insurance, and I had to pay out almost $800 per month for prescriptions for both me and my spouse (even though we were fairly young, we both were diagnosed with automimmune diseases a few years apart). Mr. Adams then got laid off from his job for a time, and we relied on my salary/savings for rent...then I got laid of and we used his salary and my "nest egg".... Bottom line, we both have university degrees, both had seemingly secure jobs, but we learned the hard way that nothing is certain. So even though you feel flush with cash now and have confidence in your employment future, I'd still advise you to wait. If you two love each other, what's the rush to get married? She's only 16; she seriously needs some "on her own" time before she says "I do" and starts playing housewife.
posted by Oriole Adams at 2:49 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think he gets the message that people don't think it's wise to marry so young, no need for more people to post saying the same thing.

$20k in savings right now [...] I have a full ride (tuition + books + ~$10k stipend) to college [...] continuing on with grad school. I'm hoping to be able to afford a down payment on a house shortly after the marriage, maybe a year or two later at most, to get us started off well.

When I took my graduate school stipend, my degree, and my several-tens-of-thousands-of-dollars-in-savings to the bank and asked about a mortgage, they checked their documentation then said (and I'm paraphrasing here) "As a matter of policy, we don't consider being a full time graduate student receiving a stipend, to be a job. We consider you to be unemployed, and we do not give out mortgages to people who are unemployed."

Some graduate students got their supervisors to write them letters describing them as employees of the university and so on, and managed to convince banks to loan them money, but that's unlikely to be an option for an undergraduate stipend.

Also, if you have a house in one location, but you can't get a job in that location and you have to move, the move could easily end up costing you $10,000 in fees, taxes, and expenses. In other words, by buying a house you lose the freedom to move to get a job; so I would only buy a house in an area with a strong job market for my profession. The same applies for your partner's profession.

So my financial advice is: Consider holding off on buying a house until you've completed your schooling and found a job.
posted by Mike1024 at 3:44 PM on May 6, 2009


For the love of God wait.

Some of the "wait" advice in this thread cannot be repeated enough.

You'll love college. She'll love college. Wait.

Girls change between the ages of 18 and 20 (and they change a couple more times too. Trust me). And BTW, you will change somewhere around the age of 25. You will wake up one day when you're 26, after the idealic dream state known as "college" and after the real world has had its evil way with you and you'll look at the span from 18 to 24 as being about as naive as the span from 5 to 11. Wait.

In fact, you two should probably spend some time apart. What could it possibly hurt if you were meant to be together? If you were made for each other you could spend years apart and you'd still find each other, right?

In fact, you should date lots and lots and LOTS of women. Right now. Have more than one girl friend. Have a LOT more than one girlfriend. If she was meant to be your bride then all those other girls will bounce off you like bullets off of Superman. Think of it as a challenge.

But now for the financial and (ahem) "logical" stuff. If you get married now. . .
Your school work (and hers) will suffer badly
Your finances will be drained
You will be heart broken at how your dreams did not come true.

But if you wait until well after 25 and after school is finished:
Re-read that list from Jaltcoh
Talk about religion. What's hers? What's yours? How do the differences matter?
Go to an engagement encounter retreat just to see how well in tune you two really are.
and the most important piece of non-emotional advice ever given. . .

share credit reports!

Those goofy commercials are brilliant! Pay particular attention to the one that goes:

Well, I married my dream girl
I married my dream girl
But she didn't tell me her credit was bad
So now instead of living in a pleasant suburb
We're living in the basement at her mom and dad's
No we can't get a loan
For a respectable home
Just because my girl defaulted on some old credit card
If we'd gone to free credit report dot com
I'd be a happy bachelor with a dog and a yard.

Good Lord! Truer words were never spoken in a commercial! If you haven't seen a person's credit score just assume it's bad. You can only be pleasantly suprised if you're wrong. But if you don't even ask or find out. . .you're "downside" risk is absolutely abyssmal!

I waited until I was 38 (way too late for most but not for me!) and in that time before marriage I've seen girlfriends' frightening personal spending habits, financial nightmares, excuses, would be in-law blood suckers, poverty bound savings habits, gold digging/meal ticket motives, bankruptcies, and hidden gambling habits and I thank God above that I checked out my fiancee's credit before we married.

If you blow off this entire post due to its emotional content at least go back and re-read the lyrics to the commercial. Pure spun gold.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 4:08 PM on May 6, 2009

you might not care about my opinion because i'm not married, but i am 22 and can tell you without hesitation that i am a completely different person now than i was at 18 (and if you had told me at 18 that i would change, i would have disagreed with you because i thought i knew who i was and that was that.)

when i was 17, i was in love and thought i would marry my then-boyfriend. i'm glad i didn't because we changed so much in the year we dated that we broke up. not because anyone cheated, not because anyone did something wrong, but because we changed. we grew apart. it sucked, but it wasn't anyone's fault. and it was unavoidable.

i know how urgent marriage might seem, but wait.

the three wisest people i know (all of whom are in their 50s) have told me to wait until i'm 25 or older to even consider marriage. two of them married before they were 20, and were divorced before they were 26. the other one married at 23 and still thinks she was too young - and says though she didn't divorce him, she thought about it many times and blames it on marrying too young.

best of luck, whatever you decide to do!
posted by gursky at 4:16 PM on May 6, 2009

I entered college as a starry eyed freshman in love with a girl I was sure I would marry, a staunch conservative, and identified as Christian. I left college married to another girl (completely different than the girl I started college with), a staunch libertarian, and identifying as a grouchy "hey you kids, get off my lawn!" Atheist.

Lots of changes happen in between 18 and your early 20s. If it's true love and a committed relationship, you'll still be together then. If it isn't... you won't have a divorce hanging over your head (and maybe you'll have the good fortune to end up a libertarian atheist married to a smoking hot southern woman you caught falling off the back of the church bus, like me!)

Take your time. Everything seems urgent when you're 18.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 4:57 PM on May 6, 2009

My parents got married very young (19 and 21) and before my mom finished college. But that was because the Vietnam War was going on and my dad was signing up straight out of college so he got to pick his job rather than waiting to be drafted. They are about to celebrate their 40th anniversary. It can happen.

But you don't have the threat of being drafted hanging over you. In fact, you never even stated why you want to do this. People don't just get married, at any age (and I say this as someone in a nearly 12 year relationship, 10 years cohabitating, with no marrying in sight).

Why do you want to do it, and why do you think it has to be now? I'm not asking you to tell AskMeFi. I'm saying ask yourself and your girlfriend, "Why do we want to get married?" "Why do we think it has to be so soon?" Maybe you have profoundly good reasons, the equivalent of about to be sent off to war. Or maybe you're not even clear on your reasons.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:59 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Weigh the pros and cons of this. The pros could seem like they give you an incredible emotional high, but unfortunately the cons will be heavier - the statistics, timeless and unchanging, work against you at this point.

Don't brush off the fact - fact - that you two will change immensely in the next two years. Grow together first as girlfriend and boyfriend for several years before you consider tying your finances. I didn't see if you mentioned anywhere how long you've been dating, but considering her age it could not have been long. When people get married a few months after meeting each other, and much older people at that, the world shakes its head in apprehension of disaster. It works out in the moving pictures far more frequently than real life could dream of. And those are grown, mature adults with decades of experience behind them.

She's a kid, not old enough to vote, and you're not old enough to legally drink at your wedding.

You know what could happen when you're speeding down an unknown highway, thinking you've got it all under control when you've only been driving for a year?

Slow down.
posted by Bakuun at 5:20 PM on May 6, 2009

Grad school and med school could land the two of you on completely opposite sides of the country. You can try and pick them geographically, but that's not necessarily wise and oftentimes not possible. Not to mention the constrains of finding a job in your area after the fact.

Are you prepared for living apart from your spouse and any future children for a period of 5, 6, 7, 8 years, depending? And to support a family on $1500/mo?
posted by messylissa at 5:20 PM on May 6, 2009

posted by messylissa at 5:21 PM on May 6, 2009

I'm female. At 18 I was completely different than at 16, and at 23 I am even more different.

You will have an easier time counting those people who [i]didn't[/i] massively change from the ages of 18 to 25 than those who did--because the number who did is so incredibly large.
posted by schroedinger at 5:57 PM on May 6, 2009

What things would you advise us to consider?

Life throws you curve-balls, from behind your back, while you're playing football.

The thing that disturbs me most about your post is that you talk a lot about plans, plans and more plans. You don't really mention your future wife or her thoughts about any of these plans, it's all youyouyou. That could be nothing, just me projecting or how you're thinking about things on this particular day, but it gives me pause and makes me think you have no idea what you're doing, even though you think you do. That's when the curve-balls hurt the most.

20k in savings is nice, but she only has scholarship that covers tuition, where is your new wife going to live and how is she going to pay for it? You're not worried about getting a job, what? I was reading a newspaper today that talked about the 3,000 applications submitted to work at IHOP. A friend has people flying in from 600 miles away to interview for a job with the state government. Oh that's right, you can just go into grad school, spending more money. And where did the 20k come from, is there more coming your way, or is that it? How are you going to generate money to avoid spending that money?

You know how you listen to your teachers because they're older, wiser and have more experience in the subject than you? Listen to this thread, there are older, wiser people who have gone through life and marrying young, while it can work out, is almost always a disaster in American society these days.

Hell, your girlfriend won't even be of legal age to vote and you're suggesting she get married? Stop, slow down and watch out for curveballs.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:04 PM on May 6, 2009

You're doing compute engineering + math, yes? So I believe that minimally you believe in approaching problem and resolving it in a logical manner.

Consider that your decision to get married now as a problem to solve as well.

Now, out of the 70+ answers to this thread so far, almost everybody are not really positive about your solution. I did a quick count and a subset of 20 people are downright negative about it.

Consider again that we're strangers who have to agenda in what we say to you and (I believe) that most of us are older and wiser than you (sorry to be condescending). Suppose you meet us on the road rather than the Internet, would you treat our opinion with more gravity ? The combined age of everybody (assuming median 30) who has put forth their opinions here probably adds up to 2100 years worth of life experience, which hopefully equals to a lot of wisdom as well.

On a personal level, I'm 27 now, CS+math kind of guy, I've been with my girlfriend for 10 years (since I was 17 and she was 15) and it's only now that we're considering to get married. Granted we might be a little slow (we're Asian) but I really do think that you're rushing it.

Unless you got your girlfriend pregnant and have to marry out of the burden of responsibility, please do reconsider.
posted by joewandy at 7:40 PM on May 6, 2009

I'm fairly well off financially (almost $20k in savings right now)

Almost $20k in savings is not really what I'd call 'well-off financially'. For singles that's okay, but you'd be surprised how much your money disappear in the initial years of getting married.
posted by joewandy at 7:42 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'll try to keep my advice only on the practical side:

I'm fairly well off financially (almost $20k in savings right now). She and I both have academic scholarships--I have a full ride (tuition + books + ~$10k stipend) to college, and she has tuition covered, so we're not running ourselves into debt while in college, especially after considering summer jobs/internships.

So you have ~20k of savings and your 10k will be about enough money for a year's rent--maybe. Depending on where in the US you live.

As for your other monthly expenses:
How will you pay for food? Do you have health insurance? Will you both be on the same health insurance? Through school? Do they offer domestic partner benefits in addition to spousal benefits? Many, many public universities in the US do. What is the yearly deductible on your health insurance? (e.g., How much would you the two of you owe if one of you needed an appendectomy?) Do you have pets that eat and require medical care? Cars/car maintenance/gas/repairs/insurance? Internet? Cable tv? Electric? Gas for cooking and/or heat? Cell phones? Landlines? Credit card payments? Do you go to the movies? Out to lunch or dinner with friends? Hit the bars?

Will she be taking out student loans to cover "living expenses", some of which I've outlined above? If so, budget the loan payment amounts for a few years from now.

I'm hoping to be able to afford a down payment on a house shortly after the marriage, maybe a year or two later at most, to get us started off well.

In general, now is a good time to buy a house because it's a buyer's market. But that's if you have job security, sizable savings, at least a 10% down payment, and a way to pay for your mortgage if you lose your job and exhaust your savings. The paperwork that lenders and underwriters require now is exhaustive. Prepare to provide 3 years of tax returns, proof of income over a 3-4 year history, proof of the provenance of income (that you're not in hock to a loan shark or relative lending you money), and many other pieces of paper.

In any market (buyer's or seller's), the things about buying a house that never occur to many people are the tons and tons of "little" expenses and routines that add up, such as lawn care (do you own a mower, hedge clippers, shovel, rake, snow blowing/shoveling equipment, gloves), exterior house care (have you ever cleaned gutters, do you own a ladder, how are you at fixing window shutters, repairing wooden stairs, replacing roofing tiles, shoveling snow off walks), and numerous other overlooked items like homeowner's insurance, buying trash cans, hoses, grass seed, paint, paint brushes, window blinds, cleaning supplies, etc). All of this is only for a house that has no big issues looming. What will you do if you buy a house you later find out has termites, or needs a new roof, or the basement floods and you can't do without a French drain system and sump pump to the tune of $6000? I'm betting you're going to need a new furnace or hot water heater for a house in your price range. Do you know how much they cost, how long they last, what kind to get? I can't tell you how much money you're going to be giving Home Depot, contractors or their ilk if you buy a house. Suffice to say it's a lot. When people say it's an "investment" to buy a house, that has never been more true than now, since we don't know in the US if house values will continue to rise a little each year or if they will for the first time ever fall back a long way before resuming the incremental yearly rise.

It's true that the IT industry is better off than many. For that reason alone, and also because you plan to own a home, I advise against grad school and just plunging ahead into the job market immediately upon graduation. You'll have a lot to pay for, so I suggest you start earning a real income asap.

Lastly, do you have an idea of how much divorce costs? 52%, I believe, of all marriages in the US end in divorce. So the odds are against you. Even moreso at your age. If you get married and later break up, it's very, very expensive. If you're speaking to each other and don't require lawyers to communicate, it's cheaper. If you don't use lawyers at all (if that's an option in your state) it can cost as little as $1000 for court fees. (That doesn't include what you had to pay to move yourself out of the house and start paying a 2nd rent/mortgage.) That is the best case scenario in divorce: still speaking, still able to agree on what should happen next. This happens to an infintessimally small number of people getting divorced. If you're not that fortunate, you'll be writing retainer checks to a lawyer in the thousands of dollars just to manage your sanity.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 7:43 PM on May 6, 2009

To me all the answers that people are giving about you being to young are pointless, perhaps the odds are against you remaining married but that is neither here nor there. Get married if it feels right.

To actually answer your question, make sure you live in the same home, and study close enough to one another that you aren't both travelling for several hours a day and getting home tired and grumpy. Also make sure that one is not travelling more then the other as resentment may develop. Build up a credit rating before you buy a house by having one or any of these: a mobile phone contract, a credit card that you pay in full monthly, perhaps even a loan that you can repay easily, anything that will demonstrate you are reliable when you are given credit.

I wish you the best of luck and follow your heart and ignore all of these miserable so and so’s who say don’t get married! So what if it turns out pants, enjoy things while you can.
posted by lilyflower at 2:46 AM on May 7, 2009

Get married if it feels right.

No. Use your brain.
posted by grouse at 6:56 AM on May 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Apart from the marriage and college issues - please don't buy the house yet. You don't want to be stressed out by classes and coursework and school obligations and THEN on top of that have lots of first-time worries about cleaning gutters, lawn care, fixing plumbing problems, repainting rooms, and the rest of the huge list of home maintenance issues.

My friends who've bought houses make black humor remarks about their homes being their "babies" and their "weekend jobs." You deserve to have a quality college experience and a quality first-time homeowner experience. It seems like a horrible amount of stress to try to take both on at the same time.
posted by cadge at 8:01 AM on May 7, 2009

Grad school and med school could land the two of you on completely opposite sides of the country.

Not to mention, most residency assignments do not take personal preference or convenience into account in any way whatsoever. When she's assigned a residency 1000 miles away from your current job/school, what are you going to do? What if you love that job/school and don't want to leave? What if you can't find a job/school near her residency?

I will also echo many of the people above - I knew many couples who married before 22, and only one of them is still married. And even for them, the plan where she would work/he would finish school, then he would work and she would finish school - did not happen. That was their plan, but she was never able to go back to college. Plans are just that - plans. Real life does not always follow the plan.
posted by timepiece at 3:31 PM on May 7, 2009

There's a documentary on Nova that follows doctors through their residency and then through the first 10 years of work. Many of their marriages broke up, particularly the ones that started just before their residencies.

It's called Doctors' Diaries and you can watch it online. The section called Life Passages might be particularly interesting to you:
The pressures of internship take a toll on Elliott's marriage, and Jane and Luanda each form a strong connection to an elderly patient who later dies.
posted by heatherann at 7:53 AM on May 10, 2009

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