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What if your 20 year old child wanted to get married?

If a 20 year old Brooke announced she was getting married, I might just fall over.  If she was still in college and fallen head over heals for some Navy man, I would suggest she take her time, get another degree, start a job, have some fun or just grow up some more.

But if this 20 year old was me, and I was so certain about my life plans, there would be no stopping me.  And this is what happened.

Jill and CJ Dancing at Wedding

I got engaged at age 20, graduated from school a semester early, secured a job in San Diego, and married my husband a couple of weeks later.  We immediately moved from New York to California where he was in the Navy.  And gone most of the time.

I was a 21 year old Navy wife that did not know I was still a kid.  I just went to work and made a home.  Navy ships and Navy officers are gone a lot and not just on the long deployments.  They have long training exercises and spend lots of nights working.  My husband even spent a year training in South Carolina while I stayed in California.

I spent a lot of time at home alone and quite a few evenings eating dinner on the ship.  I have fond memories of once spending Christmas on the USS Nimiz, eating crab legs in the dining room, while my husband stood watch.  And also of flying to Pearl Harbor to meet the ship after a 6 month deployment.  And being so excited each time the ship returned to Coronado after so much time apart.

It wasn’t until many years later when I woke up one morning, alone, across the country from my family, that I wondered why my parents let their 21 year old get married.

I was not unhappy, but wondering if I knew enough at 21 to get married for the rest of my life.  And would I let my own kids do the same?


Dad Giving Me Away
Dad Giving Me Away


After many years of reflection, I think that I probably have no choice in what my kids do.  I found this letter that my dad wrote to me when I got engaged.  Part of it says:

“Your mother and I have focused our lives around our family.  It is understandable that you would marry earlier than most people.  Regarding your choice of mate, I think you’ve done extremely well…   Thanks to the Navy, the next several years will be interesting.  I’m sure the two of you will stay in touch and your love will grow from afar.  Your mom and I will be here to help…  You are a wonderful child, and will always be my little girl.  I am very proud of you and I wish you the very best and love you to pieces.”

My parents played this well.  Had they disapproved, I would have gotten married anyway.  As it was, I have always had their support.

I’m still not sure I was old enough to decide to get married at 21 years old, but I do know it was a good decision.

Had I not gotten married to CJ, I never would have been brave enough to move across the country.  Had I not  been a sometimes-lonely Navy wife, I never would have become self sufficient and confident in what I could do.  And had I not had his encouragement to do crazy things, I certainly would not have started this blog.

Jill and CJ Wedding

So today, December 29, 2013, I’d like to wish CJ Jarvis a happy 12 year anniversary.  I wonder what crazy decisions we are making today that we will be thankful for in another 12 years.

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  1. Elizabeth Garcia Garibay
    December 29, 2013 at 11:45 pm — Reply

    Awesome story! Many happy years to come!

  2. Lily
    March 5, 2015 at 6:54 pm — Reply

    Hi! I just saw your blog while searching online. And after reading I feel really encouraged. I’m currently 19 and in a relationship. He is 9 years older than me and is a attorney. I’m still in college but he said I can continue my education even after marriage. And we want to get engaged now and get married after a year or two. But the problem is my parents don’t know about this plan of ours. They want me to get married after getting my bachelor’s degree which will take another 3 years. But it will be too late by then. I don’t even know how to convince them. Any advice?
    Will be much appreciated!

    • March 6, 2015 at 11:41 am — Reply

      Lily –

      If I tell you not to do it, would you listen? 🙂 I probably wouldn’t have at age 20. That said, why not get the degree first or why is 3 years too long to wait?

      I was in college when I got engaged. I loaded up on classes and graduated early, and then got married. Would I do it again? No, probably not. I’d still marry the same person… just later.

      Something to consider is that you will change a lot in your 20s. You are on track to get a degree, get a job, be financial independent and do the things you really want to do. At 30 you will likely be a whole new (and improved) version of yourself. Do you want to “grow up” with your spouse, or try it on your own? If your boyfriend is 9 years older, he’s already had a chance to find his own way. Neither way is right, just something to think about.

      If you do get married now, just try to think of what a 30-year-old-you will want. Babies? A spouse that will help with homework or baseball practice? If you don’t know what you will want, wait until you do.

      In the end, you get to decide. Good luck!

  3. Gadija
    May 15, 2015 at 4:24 pm — Reply


    Im 20 and my Boyfriend is 25. We really want to get married but im scared my parents will say no.

    We are both currently working and he is in the process of building his own place…

    Any advise??

    • May 15, 2015 at 5:46 pm — Reply

      Well, why do you think they will say “no”? Also, if they say “no”, will it stop you? I’m not saying “get married” or “don’t get married”, but is there a reason to wait?

      Also, for what it’s worth, my 35 year old self would tell my 21 year old self to wait.. and my 21 year old self would have ignored me. But if you want my advice after nearly 14 years of marriage, it’s “what’s the rush?”.

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