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4 Reasons Getting Married and Starting a Family at Age 21 Was a Great Decision

weddingMy wife and I married the summer before our senior year of college and conceived a child just a few weeks later. On purpose. And it was one of the best decisions of our lives.

We actually sort of fell into it all. No, we’re not from a strange cult, and neither of us were pressured by our parents to do what we did (I can assure you we received opposite pressure). Not too long before, we almost certainly would have said we agreed with the conventional wisdom that marrying and starting a family while still in college was a bad idea. But then we fell in love.

The powerful winds of romantic love compelled us to get engaged with the plan to get married the summer before our senior year. But as I’ve written elsewhere, we did so with the implicit plan of contracepting (everyone does, what else would we do?). While trying to determine which kind of contraception to use, we came across Catholic arguments against it, and, to our own surprise, were convinced that the use of contraception is immoral. We were fine with natural family planning, but we were also convinced that the primary purpose of marriage is family and should only be avoided by a married couple for good reasons.

In any case, we ended up very joyfully deciding to simply be open to having kids from the beginning. If we had not planned on using contraception originally, we probably wouldn’t have gotten engaged when we did, but like I said, we sort of fell into the whole thing.

All this is to say, neither of us set out to be young married parents. But by God’s grace, I’m very proud to say that, with my 26th birthday coming up next month, we’ve been married four and a half years, we have two children, and a third one is due this summer.

And it’s been some of the best years of our lives! We don’t regret any of it but rather see all the great blessing we could have missed out on if we had followed the normal cultural path and (possibly indefinitely) postponed marriage and children.

Here is a non-exhaustive list with four reasons why it was a great decision:

1) We are getting to enjoy our sexual primes together in a healthy, fulfilling, and constructive way.

Young people have sex drives. This is a great thing! So it’s sad that our culture is basically designed to ensure one’s sexuality is frustrating, empty, and/or destructive.

Education extends far past physical maturity, making it practically difficult for people to make normal use of their sexuality by getting married and having kids. But people still have sex drives, so they fornicate, degrading themselves and using others. Despite people’s best efforts, sometimes the procreative act (surprise!) still procreates, and women get stuck raising a child with someone they don’t love or alone, or lose hope and decide the best course of action is to kill their child.

My wife and I aren’t perfect, but we’ve been blessed with the opportunity to enjoy our sexuality in a healthy, fulfilling, and constructive way. We have the security of marriage and we’re not disrupting the natural process with contraception, so we’re letting our sexuality lead to what it was meant to lead to naturally: children. And here’s the secret: it’s all very joyous, exciting, and fun.

2) We were first time parents during our physical primes.

Taking care of young children takes an incredible amount of energy, patience, and stamina – something that will only decrease as we get older. There’s a reason God made it so most people can’t conceive children after a certain age! A couple’s first child is even more work since they don’t have experience. Lord willing, we may continue to have kids, but hopefully we’ll be able to fold new children into an already formed family culture, rather than working through the initial shock as we’re entering into middle age.

3) We used our best chance to have children, and we have a greater chance for having a large family.

There are a limited number of a years that a couple can conceive a child. The longer a person waits, the more likely it is that they may become infertile before they are able to have children. By starting young, we gave ourselves the best shot at having children in the first place. And since we have many reproductive years ahead us, we at least have a chance at having a large family. If we had started ten years later, that may have not been an option even if we wanted it.

4) We have direction and responsibility.

“Adults don’t make babies, babies make adults,” the old saying goes, and there’s a lot of truth to that. Although people should obviously have a certain amount of maturity before getting married, it’s true that marriage and family have had a very positive maturing effect on us. Taking care of children is an incredibly huge responsibility, and one that can’t be compartmentalized. Raising children requires sacrifice in every area of one’s life – and that’s a good thing. That’s the paradox of love.

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About Brantly Millegan

Brantly Millegan is studying for a MA in Theology at the St Paul Seminary School of Divinity in St Paul, MN, is a Co-Founder and Co-Editor of the online journal Second Nature, and is an Assistant Editor for Aleteia. He and his lovely wife Krista live in South St Paul, MN with their two small children, Elijah and Adelaide. His personal website is brantlymillegan.com

  • Kellie - This is a great article! Not enough articles like these that note the benefits of getting married and starting a family in young adult years.

    I too got married and had children in my young 20s. Every day is a great adventure. No regrets here either and i’m so glad we didn’t wait! 🙂January 28, 2014 – 2:07 pmReplyCancel

  • Stefanie - How blessed you are to have found your spouse at such a young age so that you can rationalize why it may be better to marry at a “younger” age. Some of us practicing Catholics who are older aren’t waiting to get married on purpose; the Lord hasn’t sent us our spouse yet. Pray for those who aren’t choosing NOT to be married. Us women are especially aware that our “biological clocks” are ticking…again, I pray and pray (as do my single Catholic “sisters” and “brothers”) for my [God-willing] future spouse and the gift of children. You have been especially blessed that you spent less time in the Catholic singles “waiting room.” May God bless you and your family.February 7, 2014 – 9:57 amReplyCancel

  • Brantly Millegan - Hey Stefanie, Great comments. Yes, there are many people, men and women, who want to be married but aren’t. I wonder though if part of the problem is that there are so few people in their 20s are willing to get married. In other words, if we had a culture in which it was normal for people to get married in their early 20s, I bet it would be easier for people in their early 20s to find people.

    God bless!
    BrantlyFebruary 7, 2014 – 10:07 amReplyCancel

  • Gina - There is absolutely no end to how much I love this article. BTW, beautiful photo of you and your wife. Adorable!

    Blessings to you. I can’t wait to repost this via FB.February 17, 2014 – 1:09 amReplyCancel

  • Lightning Round – 2014/06/18 | Free Northerner - […] is counterfeit marriage. Related: Marriage: general and particular risks. Related: 4 reasons to get married at 21. Related: Women want marriage, the whole package, while men want the […]June 18, 2014 – 12:03 amReplyCancel

  • Nathan - I have a slight problem with this.

    Not everyone can have a path (career goal/idea) by that age. With today’s youth ill-prepared emotionally and economically, this would only be for the rare couple and even then it will most likely cause regret and hidden problems in later life.

    Maybe with good parents that are financially stable, sure. But not all of us can do this and not have screwed up kids because of neglect, etc. I refuse to think that God wants me to bring children into a world without being the best I can be and financially/emotionally prepared to raise them.

    Also, a man’s sexual prime is much longer than you think. I really hope that your wife did not try and push you into marriage and having kids. I don’t feel that’s that case here, but it’s something to consider. Love is very blinding and I hope you don’t have any regrets in the coming years.June 18, 2014 – 12:41 pmReplyCancel

  • 4 Reasons I’m Glad I Got Married and Started a Family – At Age 21 | Aleteia - […] Adapted from an article originally published at Catholic Sistas. […]July 13, 2015 – 6:36 amReplyCancel

  • 4 Reasons I’m Glad I Got Married and Started a Family – At Age 21 | Aleteia Staging - […] Adapted from an article originally published at Catholic Sistas. […]July 21, 2015 – 7:19 amReplyCancel

  • Abby - Thanks for the article! There are many more good reasons that you did not include, but I appreciate hearing a personal take on getting married young. I am 20, a Junior in college, and preparing for marriage myself. I am still a bit nervous though–my parents are really disliking the timing. But we couldn’t imagine life without each other, and have already done much discernment together, and so I pray for my parent’s support.September 15, 2015 – 2:58 amReplyCancel

  • raj - Miss youJuly 15, 2016 – 7:04 amReplyCancel

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