When I tell people, at the age of 29, that I’ve been married for over a decade I can visibly see the questions on their face. Were you pregnant? Did you need a visa? How badly did your parents freak out? Did they push you into it?
My first thought on celebrating my 12th wedding anniversary this year was to post a status on Facebook. Not because I wanted people to congratulate us. Not because I was gushing with love first thing in the morning. But because I wanted people to know we were still making it.
You see, when I got married at 17, I also got put into a lot of boxes. We were foolish. We were too young. We were going through puppy love. We weren’t going to last.
Fact of the matter is, we’re happy. We’ve grown together. We’ve started a family. We’ve moved halfway across the world, and we’ve helped each other forge careers. He is my biggest supporter and I his. Yet, our story still comes with a tag.
I met Sam when I was 12. After seeing me at the local McDonalds (it was the only cool hangout for kids in Melbourne) he got my number from one of my friends and called, telling me, 'You look nice.' And then later, 'Would you like to date me?' I freaked out about the prospect of having my first boyfriend and told him we could be friends instead. Together, we spent our childhood going through every weird and wonderful thing that happens as a kid. Falling in love was pretty inevitable.
We decided to get married, even though everyone doubted it would last. According to the Office of National Statistics, the average age of marriage in the UK is 37 for men and 34 for women. And statistically, a couple is more likely to get divorced if both partners are aged between 20 and 24 on their wedding day. So we weren't just breaking the mould, we were crushing it.
The problem is, everyone assumes I’ve missed out on something or other. I haven’t. I don’t need to be, ahem, ‘generous with my affections’ in order to feel like I’ve lived. And if I want to book a getaway with the girls, I buy my ticket. The fun single things you’re supposed to do in your 20s isn’t actually a requirement.
That’s not to say I don’t feel self-conscious about marrying young. I regularly follow up the bombshell with some sort of joke – 'I’m from a cult' or 'I was, like, ten' – but surely in this day and age I shouldn’t have to feel so weird about it.
It's not like all of the fun things have passed us by. In fact, I've been lucky enough to share everything with my best mate. We will grow old and have millions of stories to recall together. I mean, how often is it that you're able to share your first kiss and wedding kiss with the same person? And yes, I'm still as attracted to him as I would be if I'd just met him. Sure, it helps that he looks like Brad Pitt, but I suspect it has a lot to do with being attracted to the same face through our teenage years, 20s and now 30s.
I can’t tell you if there’s a perfect age to get married. I can’t give you a guide to happiness. But what I can tell you is that you CAN get married at a young age and beat the odds. We're doing it, year by year.