I’ll admit it. I was naïve when I got married.

I hadn’t had many boyfriends or even a real job. I didn’t have a plan for my life and barely opened a savings account. I was a starry-eyed, optimistic girl who knew very little of life. My boyfriend wasn’t much older, but still we decided to get married.

We didn’t listen to the marriage experts who declared we were much too young. We ignored their advice to “find yourself” and build a stable life before entering a permanent relationship. We didn’t graduate college or save enough to buy a home. We didn’t have investment accounts, a steady paycheck, or even a washer and dryer.

But we had the essentials—kind hearts deeply committed to each other. We barely developed our own personalities, let alone understood each other’s. But we agreed not to build our relationship on compatibility, because we knew that could be dynamic and fleeting. Instead we focused on creating a foundation of trust and selflessness. We determined to carve our way through life together, no matter what obstacles came our way. We were impressionable, but we viewed that as a strength. We shaped and molded our personalities to complement each other and grew in love as we faced challenges hand-in-hand.

It was fun, too.

We ate dinner on the floor until we found a second-hand table. We went for midnight walks in August, because our air conditioner broke, and it was too hot to sleep inside. We were silly and full of energy, spending weekends at the arcade or having water gun fights in the grass. We snuck breadsticks into the library for late-night study sessions and binged on pizza as we watched the college football playoffs. We didn’t have much, but we made the most of what we had.

And then life hit us, as it inevitably does.

For us it was cancer, along with depression and anxiety. Our marriage was pushed to the limits as we were overcome with fear. We screamed and yelled, because it felt like too much to handle. We cried through the night when neither of us could sleep. We lost any semblance of stability as our lives crumbled around us.

But our marriage was never built on stability.

We didn’t expect ourselves to have life figured out. We went into this as novices, so the uncertainty was nothing new. When we committed our lives, we knew our marriage would evolve. Life was bound to change, and so would we, so the only constant was being in it together.

We believed in each other and faced the problems side-by-side.

I turned to him when my eyes filled with tears, because I knew his shoulder was always there. He turned to me when he was too weak to get out of bed, because I had been lifting and encouraging him for years. We held each other as we listened to doctors explain the severity of the situation. We looked into each other’s eyes and watched as we each grew in maturity and strength.

If we waited to get married, we would have been lonelier, and we would have changed anyway.

He’s not the same person at 30 that he was at 22, and I expect him to change again before turning 40, 50, and 60. I hope that I won’t be the same person either. Life changes people, as it should, and “finding yourself” is a never-ending process.

So call me crazy for getting married young if you want. You wouldn’t be the first, and you won’t be the last. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve had the man I love by my side through the easy and fun moments as well as the hard and sad ones. We were young and naïve, and we probably still are. Compared to many, I’m still that starry-eyed girl who doesn’t have a clue. I’m oblivious to all the future curveballs life will throw, and I’m not sure how we’ll get through it.

But we’re determined to do it together.

You might also like:

Dear Husband, I Am With You Even When It’s Hard

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Julieann Selden

Julieann Selden is a chemistry graduate student and non-profit volunteer. Her husband, Ken, is recently in remission from sarcoma cancer. On her blog, contemplatingcancer.com, she examines the thoughts and emotions of life through the lens of an aggressive cancer diagnosis.