Today is my birthday. I tell you this not because I want you all to wish me a happy birthday, but because I was thinking a lot about how I was eighteen when I met Mark, and seven birthdays later, here we are, still together.
Seven birthdays is a lot when you are only 26. Seven birthdays means that I was a teenager when I met my husband. Seven birthdays means that somewhere, along the way, I went from being a confused and lonely college kid still trying to figure out her life to a lawyer. I mean, seriously. When I met Mark, I had a lot of growing up left to do. I suspect he did as well, he just did a better job of covering it. At least these days, he's off to work in pants that don't have holes in them and a shirt that fits him.
I think having an older boyfriend in college helped me grow up a little bit faster - Mark was already extremely responsible, and so I started to be more responsible, because I wanted to impress him (and also make sure he didn't think it was a mistake to date somebody who was quite a bit younger than him.) We also struggled a lot with the fact that we wanted to have a mature and adult relationship, but we weren't really adults yet. So we started to mimic adult behaviors. Adults did things like went on vacations together. So we tried to go on vacations together. Some of them were successes, some of them were failures, but all of them were learning experiences. Adults went grocery shopping and cooked dinner together. So we did that. Adults went to bed at a reasonable time, and then got up in the morning at a reasonable time. So we did that. Adults had arguments. So we did that. Adults did the laundry and cleaned the kitchen. So we did that. Adults went to dinner with their parents, whether they wanted to or not. So we did that. I think by going through the motions like that, we managed to grow up a lot and also set the stage for the life we live now.
The other thing about meeting young and dating for a long time and growing up together means that we dated for a lot longer than other people that get married. If you think about it, most people who meet in high school or college date for at least six years before they get married. So when I tell people that Mark and I were together for seven years before getting married, they are surprised. Then I remind them that I was 25 when we got married, and getting married at 21 wasn't really in the cards for us. But our friends meet now and date for a year or two, then get engaged and get married. I think it's because when you are already grown-ups when you meet, and you don't have so much growing up left to do, and you also know whether you will be compatible with a person much faster (especially if you've already dated people.) If anyone we knew in college had dated for a year and then announced they were getting married, we would have called them crazy. But in the Real World of Being Grownups, my friends who date for a year get engaged and I say, "yay!" or if it's two years, I say, "finally!"
Did you meet young and date for a long time? Did you grow up together? Did one of you help the other one grow up? Or have you met recently as full-fledged adults who already know who you are?