Am I too young to be engaged? Well, there’s a question. At what age do we become mature? How old do you have to be to realise that you have met the love of your life?
I’ll tell you a story that relates to those questions. When I was sixteen, I met the love of my life, but I was too young to realise it. He was only nineteen. Neither of us was old enough to make a lifelong commitment. We were both virgins, so even at the level of sexual attraction, we were not experienced enough to know whether there might be something better out there. My life at home was less than ideal, and subconsciously, all I wanted was a strong, protective man, who would offer me a way to escape my dysfunctional family. He ended our relationship to embark on new adventures elsewhere and I, having learned that I could attract the right sort of young man, went out into the world to pursue adventures of my own. At eighteen, I met another young man. He wanted me to marry him and have his babies. I wanted security. On my nineteenth birthday, he bought me a ring, proposed and I accepted. I never did feel secure, but I had a ring. Surely that meant he was willing to forsake all others and love, honour and keep me. In the meantime, my first love returned from the sea and asked me to go back with him, but I felt I had to do my duty to my fiancé and keep the promise symbolised by that ring, and so I refused him. It was years before my fiancé got round to marrying me. When I became pregnant with our daughter, he had already fallen in love with one of his bits on the side. I asked him to leave and pursued a divorce. The decree nisi arrived when my daughter was still in nappies and I realised that, at nineteen, I had been far too young to get engaged. Too young to understand my own reasons for accepting a young man who was completely wrong for me and too young to realise that I should have kept well away from him.
Now, forty years later, the tides have turned, and I am back with the love of my life. We are ridiculously happy and with his love and care, I have thrown off all the bitterness and defensiveness that experience taught me. He is finally mastering the anxiety that a loveless marriage taught him. So . . . were we too young, at sixteen and nineteen to become engaged? Yes, we were. We needed to experience more of life apart before we could appreciate life together. Would we have been happier if we had stayed together? Who knows? In those days, wives were expected to sacrifice their careers for those of their husbands, and I was willing to do that. Would I, then, have had the satisfying (but exhausting) career that I had, if I had been in the protection of the love of my life? Probably not.
I seem to have taken your question and made it about me. It should be about you. Are you too young to be engaged? If you’re asking the question, you probably are too young. But if you’ve met the love of your life, you can’t ask him or her to wait for you until you have gained some more experience. Maybe you need to experience life together. I’m happy now, because I took a massive risk and changed my life completely. All through that change, I had only one goal in mind: to be with my beloved. The only things I have ever regretted have been things I did when I did not follow my instinct. So I would say, if you are not compelled by some mysterious force to become engaged, if you feel like a spectator rather than a participant in your own life, then don’t do it. Wait until you meet someone who draws you like a magnet, or learn to enjoy your own company and live without the big, glittery promise of romance.