Thomas and I got engaged when we were both 21. At that time, we didn’t have a set timeline for when we would get married, only that we would tie the knot once we were more settled. We were both still studying and already thinking of studying abroad. We thought that a perfect timing would appear after my bachelors was complete, or his master’s, or something else. At some point, we were bound to be more settled and ready to get married. However, in the year following our engagement, we realised that in the short and even medium term we would never really be settled and that there would be no perfect timing. This realisation culminated when I came back from a month-long research project in Berlin. While I was away I realised that I wanted to continue living and studying abroad and that I wanted to do it with Thomas. Coincidentally, when I arrived home, Thomas told me about seeing his friend’s sister and father practising their father/daughter dance in her wedding dress. This got him thinking as well, and he came to the same conclusion that there would be no perfect timing. My little heart melted when he asked “when will it be our turn to get married?” The following year we were married.
To our friends and family, our decision to get married didn’t come as a surprise. They had watched our relationship grow from when we were only 15. However, when we moved to the UK and met new people, it surprised them to learn that we had already tied the knot. If we had both been working it wouldn’t seem so strange, because we would be part of the norm. However, as students we were certainly in the minority. That being said, people only found it strange that we were married until they met our other half. Then, everyone would give us a “ah, I get it now” look. Once I moved to Taiwan, this trick no longer worked. The best I can do now is show them a picture on my phone (to which they of course reply that he is the most handsome of them all).
I have to admit that uttering the words “my husband” currently sounds really strange. I think it partly sounds weird to tell people that I’m married because I came to Taiwan alone. Being separated by about half the world for almost a year doesn’t fit with the normal conception of what marriage is and should be. People get married right before they settle down, buy a house, and have kids, not before they’re about to move to separate cities in the UK and then separate continents. It seems strange to people that I left something good for the unknown. Isn’t the goal in life to find someone you love and that you can spend time with? If I’ve found that, then why would I leave it? Don’t married couples move together, especially if it’s an international move?
My demographic in Taiwan has also changed from when I was in the UK. The expats that I met the UK were “safer” travellers; the ones here are in a whole different category. I’m surrounded by free spirited independent people who packed up their things and moved abroad for a year or even more. I have to say that it takes a certain kind of person to move here. I’m not saying that it is a bad thing, because I am certainly one of them. Expats living in Taiwan for a year or more either came here as a couple or are very single, making me a real odd-ball.
I have not even addressed the age question. When I tell people that I’m married, they look me up and down and ask how old I am. The answer never reassures them (even less when I tell them that we’ve been married for 2 years). The age thing is really funny to me. What answer would have been more satisfactory? Is 24 enough? Or do we need to pass the 25-year mark? Crazy enough, at some point they would start asking the opposite question of “Why aren’t you married yet?”
Has our relationship evolved over the past two years? Of course! Has the fact that we are married played into it. Yes, it did, but mostly in that the permanency of our commitment meant that whenever planned our next move, we knew that we were working together as a unit and that we could count on each other. Getting married reinforced our relationship with the deep assurance that we would be there for each-other like an anchor in a storm of ever changing people and places. That being said, fundamentally, the overall success of our relationship depends on the strength of the bond that existed between us before we tied the knot. Getting married was an important step for us and it had strong personal importance, but fundamentally we are the same as we were before (with the extra bling).
We got married because it was right time in our relationship and in our plans to move abroad, not because of our age. We didn’t get married at 16, so I don’t see the big issue. I think people are afraid of the commitment that comes with getting married and afraid that they will miss out on the right person by settling down too quickly. Divorce statistics are really high, making it ultra scary to commit to someone. Marriages also don’t work in the same way for everyone, because we don’t all have the same life goals. I wasn’t willing to sacrifice my personal and professional goals because I met the perfect person for me at 15. I also was not willing to give him up to pursue these goals. Together, these have made our lives over the past few years a real rollercoaster.
Despite the extra years, we have not moved any closer to having that moment where we both sit back and say “this is it, now we can get married”. We didn’t get married because we were ready to buy a house and have kids. The marriage that I have is all that I want it to be: supportive, loving, understanding, and accommodating. However, our path as a married couple has been unconventional to the eyes of many and therefore deserving of additional questioning.
Funny enough, people find it weird that we got married, but still ask when we plan to have kids…