'Getting married young was a mistake'
RACQUEL was 19 when she got married. She was a devout Christian and so was her teen husband. However, things soured soon after the vows, when his jealousy surfaced. He refused to allow her to have friends and forced her to cut ties with her family. She was unemployed while he was working and so she found herself totally dependent on him.
Sasha was also a young bride. She married her high school sweetheart at 21. They had been together since she was in the 10th grade and everyone labelled them 'the happy couple'.
But shortly after the birth of their child, Sasha said things changed.
"It was as if he wasn't ready to be a husband or a father, and he started coming home late or not at all. He would leave me to take care of the baby," she said. "Maybe he suddenly realised he was just too young, I am not sure."
Various studies have shown that couples who marry young have a greater chance of divorce than those who tie the knot after their 30s.
"Getting married young can signify immaturity and the person will be lacking in some essential life lessons because of that immaturity," clinical psychologist Pearnel Bell told All Woman. "That can put a person in a position to make a wrong decision if you don't have that level of life maturity and understanding."
Just ask Sasha, who says she didn't mind at all when her husband left, because she had begun to feel trapped.
"I guess I was just so in love that I didn't understand fully what life was about. But with him, I couldn't go out with my friends, I couldn't go to parties and I just couldn't do the things I would have wanted."
Today, two years later, Racquel has admitted to being extremely unhappy and constantly wishes she had never got married. However, she said, she is holding on because of her Christian values.
Both women agree that getting married young was a mistake, and if they had to do it over again, they would have waited.
It's waiting that experts like Bell recommend, not so much so because of age, but because of the maturity required for marriage that only comes with experience.
"Many times youthfulness comes with inexperience and so nothing can happen before that maturity period, and I take it that that is what people are talking about when they say they got married too young because they are lacking basic understanding of life. You go into it and then you get caught up in the reality and then it looks like you made this huge mistake because you don't have that information as a result of youthfulness," Bell said.
She emphasised that the contention isn't only with age, but with the level of maturity of the individuals involved "and their ability to understand the issues that are there".
"It's not just the age," the psychologist said. "Because you have some people who are 30 and they are immature, people who have not grown up, examined their lives or done any self-reflection."
She added: "Many of us enter it early and never know what to expect more than what we watch on TV and they tell you 'oh you will live happily ever after', and you hear people say 'oh I have found my soulmate'. But when you go down the road you realise and begin to ask 'what's this'? Because people do change," she said.
For Wendy, who was engaged and about to get married at 22, it was quick thinking and a bit of investigating on her part that made her miss the married-too-young mistake.
She, too, felt that her fiancé, 22, and herself, were so much in love, that it was inevitable that they would marry.
But while planning their wedding, she discovered that he was a regular cheater and a habitual liar.
"I guess he was still in the stage where he was not yet settled," she said, while encouraging women not to be fooled by the flush of love, but to examine the pros and cons of the potential union as intensely as they would any other major life decision.
So how do you know you're too young to wed? The experts say it's when:
1. You are not sure what you want to do with your life.
2. It is your first and only serious relationship.
3. You desire to explore the world and pursue new goals.
4. All your friends are unmarried and you are jealous of the time they spend just hanging out.
5. You don't know how to budget and run a home.
6. You are still dependent on your parents to make serious decisions for you.