What would you do, if you had to choose between marriage or a long-distance relationship?
I was only 22 when I was faced with that decision…
Over the years I’ve endured a lot of judgment and criticism for my decision to get married at a young age. That’s just not something you’re expected to do as a modern European woman in the 21st century. To be honest, I always thought that if I would ever get married, it would be more towards my late twenties at the earliest. And marriage didn’t seem so essential to me anyway. In the Netherlands, where I’m from, lots of couples decide not to get married but sign a civil partnership instead. I never grew up dreaming of a big wedding, as this wasn’t really a thing in the Netherlands when I was a child. The weddings I’ve been to have mostly been just small gatherings with friends and family members and didn’t have more than around 50 guests.
I moved to London in 2012, around the time of the Olympics, it was such an exciting time to be in London. I was supposed to live in London only for a year before I would return to the Netherlands for my studies. But then I spotted a tall and handsome stranger at a salsa party. It took me some time to build enough courage to go talk to him, but when my friend had to leave, I thought, it is now or never. I slowly made my way across the room, almost got too scared, but then started talking to him anyway. From then on we danced all night, it was like I was living in a dream. London was definitely an exciting place to be. I never imagined my life would take a turn like this, I had been pretty much eternally single up to that point.
I met David in the summer of 2013 after I had just turned 21. Our relationship has been great right from the start, he treated me better than any guy ever had. It was so nice, I’ve never had to question if he liked me or where the relationship was going. But then in the following winter, the time came when his visa ran out. The goodbye was hard, but we planned to stay in touch. And we did. We spoke every day of the 9 months apart. In that time I visited Colombia twice. First to see if Colombia was a country I could consider living in, but I decided I’d rather not. The only other option we could see was for David to come back to Europe, and for that to happen we had to be married. So we decided to go for it. From my point of view, this was a guy I would probably have married eventually anyway, why not push it forward if that meant we could move on with our relationship? The long-distance relationship felt as if we’d put our life on hold somehow.
But other people clearly didn’t see it this way. Some people told me in my face that they didn’t give us more than one or two years. People said they just wanted the best for me, and they were concerned. I believe some of them, such as close friends and family, were genuinely concerned. But I think some people just liked being judgmental towards a young woman. They questioned David’s motives, was I sure he wasn’t using me? Like marrying me just for a visa? Or maybe he wanted to get a European passport? And was I sure I wanted to marry a Colombian? What about the drugs and all that? Was I really sure about all of this? Did I really think it through? Wasn’t I way too young to get married anyway? And what did my parents think? Well, my parents were one of the few people who had actually met David before he had to return to Colombia and they loved him! I’m so happy they have never questioned my judgment and my relationship. They even got themselves their first-ever passport, taking their first trip to a different continent, so that they could be there for the wedding.
I thought at the time that the criticism would be over once we were married, but in some ways, it got worse. This time it was about my age and people questioned my reasons for getting married. And I guess I didn’t feel strong enough to give some nasty replies to shut people up back then. Mostly, people would just be very surprised if I mentioned that I was married, and they would ask for my age straight away. When I mentioned my age, they asked me if I wasn’t a bit young to be married? And every time I felt like I had to justify my decisions. Every time I told people that I basically got married to get my partner a visa, and it felt horrible every time I said this. But I didn’t feel bold enough to tell people that I married my husband because I loved him. And I did love him very much, I still do. But that didn’t seem like a good enough reason to satisfy people’s judgments.
I faced the worst criticism at work. At the time I was working as a nanny for a family with two children I’d looked after for nearly two years already. The adults of the family obviously didn’t approve of my marriage, they had made that clear beforehand. But afterward I got a lot of criticism from the little girl I looked after, she was about 5 or 6 years old at the time, and she would say that she thought I was too young to be married, her parents wouldn’t allow her to get married as young as I did, and she wouldn’t want to get married that young anyway, it was just wrong and I had made a mistake. Every day I got comments like that. I suspected that it came from her parents because I don’t think a girl her age would have been so opinionated about the appropriate age to get married. But it stopped as soon as they met him because they liked him just as much as everyone always does.
I got married young and I don’t regret it. If I had to make the choice today, I would take the exact same decision I did back then. I only wish I had been more confident in defending my choices. I got married young because my husband is an absolute gem and I recognized that the moment I met him. And that’s why I married him. I’m so proud to say that today is the day we’ve been married for five years. And I still look forward to growing old with my husband.