Let me preface this by saying that I have never once regretted getting married at 26. I have no question that I've found "the one," and I certainly don't have any wild oats left to sow. Since getting married six months ago, my life has barely changed at all, especially since my now-husband and I had already been living together for over two-and-a-half years by the time we tied the knot. But one thing has become obvious from time to time: I'm now a married woman, and I'm the only one in my friend group who can claim that.
If you had asked me five years ago what I would look like as a married woman, I certainly wouldn't have pictured myself still wearing dirty Converse and a ponytail every day — perhaps instead a twin-set and some pearl earrings — but here I am. Being married doesn't mean I still can't go to bars and clubs and drink and dance and meet new people, but having a wedding band on your finger does change certain things. Most of my friends are single, and though I'm always happy to play wing woman, I have no desire to give the wrong impression. I don't wear what I used to consider "club outfits" anymore, and I'm definitely calmer in general whenever we're all out together. And all of that makes me happier. I'm inextricably bound to someone else now, and I do want others to recognize that.
Even my friends who are in committed relationships will sometimes make comments about not yet being ready to "settle down," and I feel a sting of shame.
Weekend trips feel different now, too. My single friends don't have a partner they feel obligated (or simply want!) to bring along, so to ask to bring my husband feels a little embarrassing sometimes, like trying to sneak a childhood blanket into a sleepover party. It's not that I can't have fun without him there (he's definitely not allowed on girls-only trips), but his desire to be welcomed into my friend group only makes me feel guiltier for saying maybe he should sit this one out. If all of my friends had partners, it would be different. To be the only one who brings a spouse along, however, is decidedly uncool.
I was never the one in a relationship in high school or college. When my friends would ditch plans or spend nights in with their significant others, I would roll my eyes. Now the tables have turned, and I have a husband who I cook dinner with every night. We have a dog. We have a shared bank account. He's the best friend I've ever had and every morning when I wake up next to him, I feel deliriously happy all over again, remembering just how lucky I am.
But that's not what single people want to hear. Even my friends who are in committed relationships will sometimes make comments about not yet being ready to "settle down," and I feel a sting of shame. I certainly haven't "settled" in my relationship, but being in a marriage does keep me grounded in some ways. Unlike my friends, I can't book a flight to Napa Valley last minute for a three-day weekend. The dog would need someone to watch him. The cost would need to be discussed with my husband. And my husband would need to be OK with me taking off for three days. It's not just me I need to consider anymore, and I genuinely love that.
Being the first one married rather than the last one definitely has its benefits, too. All of my friends could attend my bachelorette party, and not many of them needed plus-ones for my wedding. I can watch my friends swipe through dating apps, knowing I'll thankfully never have to go on another awkward first date ever again. I feel more comfortable and confident in myself than I ever have, not because I have the security of a man waiting for me every day, but because I'm in a partnership that makes me want to be better.
While most of my husband's friends are in serious relationships or on the cusp of marriage, not many of my friends are there yet, and that's OK. To a lot of people, I got married "young." I'm a firm believer that there's no right timeline for anything, and marriage is also definitely not for everyone. However, I'm still looking forward to the day when my husband will be invited on certain trips with my girl gang rather than feeling like a weird male interloper.