This article originally appeared on Ravishly.
When I got engaged at 18, I didn’t think I’d be missing out on anything by settling down young.
I was never much interested in going out to parties. The thought of dating out in the real world nauseated me and made me grateful for my high-school romance. I was a homebody, comforted by the thought of a predictable life with the man I loved.
It was exactly what I wanted. I had never been more certain of anything in my short life.
I was resistant to anyone who would call me “too young:” I told them — and sometimes myself — that they didn’t know me. They were just projecting their experiences onto me, mistaking me for some irresponsible version of themselves.
Just because they didn’t have the maturity and desire to settle down at my age didn’t mean I was wrong. Even when friends and family spoke to me from a place of love, I found any trace of doubt in their words hostile.
I was constantly on the defense, prepared to fight for my young love against those who thought I wasn’t ready for marriage.
It pains me to say it, but in a way, they were right after all.
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There were things I was missing out on by marrying young, things I didn’t even realize I was missing until it was too late.
I didn’t use those late teen years to let myself stretch my still-growing legs. I didn’t make the usual mistakes, didn’t cry on the shoulders of my friends, and didn’t form the relationships I so desperately needed in addition to my romantic partner — even if he was going to be my husband.
My development into adulthood was fast-tracked, and I didn’t have the support system I needed to deal with real life as it barreled towards me. I wasn’t able to grapple with the remnants of childhood as I transitioned out of my teenage years. I was already a wife on the cusp of motherhood.
I had to be a grown-up, whether I was ready or not.
I didn’t realize how crucial my late teens and early twenties were for forming deep and lasting female friendships to get me through the gritty parts of life.
When I became pregnant with my first child, there was no one there for me to tell my darkest fears and brightest hopes to. When I suffered from postpartum depression and struggled through new motherhood, I had nowhere to turn. When I didn’t connect with my husband, I felt hopelessly alone.
My marriage has been wonderful and fulfilling, but it cannot serve as a replacement for the female camaraderie I crave.
I hadn’t built a community of women around me in those late years of adolescence, so there was no one to lean on when shifting into adulthood was too hard to bear alone. I found myself curling into an emotional fetal position, wanting for female relationships I didn’t have. I longed for the nights I would spend sleeping over at friends’ houses in high school, the comfort of talking unfiltered, the safety of sisterhood. All of that was behind me now.
Even now, 10 years and three children later, I still long for the experiences I didn’t get.
I yearn to cry in a friend’s bed, spilling every taboo thought from my head. I long deeply for friendships I didn’t forge, and find myself wishing I had given myself a few more years to bond with someone other than my husband.
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My marriage has been wonderful and fulfilling, but it cannot serve as a replacement for the female camaraderie I crave. The type of relationships I need outside of my marriage are not as easily forged as I thought they would be. Friendships now form slower. Late nights and soul-bearing conversations are few and far between.
As I struggle to build friendships into my life as a mother and wife, I find myself longing for the years I lost when I married young.
Years I so easily gave away, without knowing their true cost.