Once upon a time, it was relatively commonplacenote for people to marry in their early twenties or even as young as their teens. In a time where life expectancies were low (due to high child death rates) and many mothers died during childbirth, getting married while they were young and fertile was the best option for many adults.
Within the last 100 years or so, however, this has fallen by the wayside, especially in western countries. The need to get married as soon as possible is no longer an issue for most people. Courtship periods typically last years before an engagement occurs. If anything, getting married too young is seen as rash or a waste of youth. People are expected to have a few years of freedom and self-discovery before being tied into a committed marriage.
This trope is what happens when characters get married young, however it doesn't turn out as they had hoped. Maybe two teens feel they're meant for each other and marry as soon as legally possible. A few years after marriage, however, they realize that wasn't such a good idea. They thought they were the perfect couple, but it was just young love and they ultimately grew apart. Or maybe, they feel constrained by their marriage and want to go out and live their lives. It's even more troublesome when a child is involved. Maybe they aren't ready for kids or didn't even want kids.
This type of marriage can end up in multiple ways. The couple can end up staying in a strained marriage, work things out after a trouble spot (or three) other times they get divorced and often times the father simply runs off. This also occurs with mothers, however, it's more common for the dad.
- In Runaways, Karolina became betrothed to the Skrull Prince Xavin when they were both about seventeen. Neither of them had any dating experience, their species were at war with each other, and genderfluid Xavin soon started to believe that they had an Incompatible Orientation with Karolina, who is a lesbian. The relationship nearly fell apart a few times before Xavin made a Heroic Sacrifice to save Karolina from the Light Brigade.
- Sword Art Online Abridged spoofs the cliched romance between the teenaged Kirito and Asuna by portraying them as two kids in way over their heads, doing what they think adults are "supposed" to do in a sexual relationship. The episode in which they marry involves a Masochism Tango where each one tries to heap more and more responsibility onto the relationship (adopting a child, then attempting to adopt two, then three, then an entire orphanage) to force the other to back out. They finally talk things out at the end of the episode after witnessing the death of their "daughter" and agree that while their marriage was the worst mistake they've ever made, they want to stay together as they genuinely enjoy each other's company.
- In the Pokemon fic Mended, Ash's biological father is Professor Oak. The man he thought was his father ran off before he was even conceived. Will and Delia married young and after only dating for six weeks, but Will was only dating Delia as a rebound. When his ex asked to get back together, Will ran off and he hasn't been heard from since.
- Bowser in Married to the Koopa King married his ex Clawdia in his mid-teens. Their marriage fell apart because it was based more on teenage lust than love. Bowser was in love with his childhood crush, Peach, which left Clawdia jealous. She faked her death and ran off not soon after Junior was hatched, leaving Bowser alone with their eight kids
Film — Animation
- The art book to Treasure Planet explains that this is why Jim's dad ran off. He married the then-seventeen-year-old Sarah when he was nineteen. Sarah ended up pregnant not soon afterwards, but he ended up feeling confined in his marriage as he wasn't ready for a wife and children yet. Despite Jim trying to please his dad, he was very distant towards Jim. One day when Jim was eight he ran off for good. Jim hoped for years that he'd come back home however he ultimately realized that his dad was gone for good. This led to Jim becoming a bitter and angry teenager, especially at himself for not being good enough for his dad.
- Subverting this is one of the plot points in Frozen. Barely eighteen-year-old Anna meets twenty-three-year-old Hans and they decide within a few hours of meeting to get married. Everyone else believes this to be a terrible idea, especially since they only just met. They end up calling off the engagement once Hans' true nature comes out and he reveals he was just using Anna to get access to the Arendelle throne.
Film — Live Action
- Nick Hurley from Flashdance exploited the All Girls Want Bad Boys allure to latch onto a rich heiress, and rise from the Wrong Side of the Tracks to a construction mogul. However, Nick never felt comfortable with the hoi polloi, and he has divorced Kate years ago. This almost derailed his romance with protagonist Alex Owens when Alex saw Nick with Kate at an opera gala. Nick later explained that this rendezvous was just making nice-nice with his ex since both are members of the Pittsburgh Arts Council.
- In The Crowd, John falls head-over-heels for Mary within minutes of meeting her. Mary is less interested. Eventually, they do fall in love and do get married, however, their relationship is haunted by frequent bickering and unhappiness.
- In Control, Ian and Debbie date as teenagers, and get married only a couple years out of school. Theyre happily married at first, but then the birth of their daughter, Joy Division taking off, Ian meeting another woman, and his health problems strain the marriage. They begin divorce proceedings, but Ian kills himself before they go through the court.
- Ash's Disappeared Dad hasn't been discussed much in the Pokémon anime, however, the novels Pocket Monsters: The Animation went into detail on his and Delia's relationship. The books were written by the lead director of the Kanto arc, Takeshi Shudō, however, are only semi-canon as they contradict the anime multiple times. According to the book, Delia married Ash's dad in her teens and ended up giving birth to Ash at nineteen. Ash's dad, however, ran off one day on a Pokemon journey and never came back, likely failing (like many trainers) but still refusing to return home. Delia has since fallen out of love with him but has never formally divorced him.
- The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: Helen Lawrence marries Bad Boy Arthur Huntington believing she can redeem him though The Power of Love. She quickly learns that she cannot and suffers through a miserable marriage for several years. She finally runs away when he threatens to corrupt their young son.
- Twilight: Bella's parents, Charlie and Renee, ran off together when Renee was only nineteen. It was a short-lived relationship and they spent Bella's childhood co-parenting. Even nearly two decades afterwards Charlie still pines for his ex, but Renee has moved on.
- Olivia Vandergriff from The Overstory gets impulsively married in college, and divorces very quickly when she realizes how bad of an idea it was.
- Invoked in How I Met Your Mother. In "Slap Bet", Robin "admits" to having a husband that she married at a young age and later separated from after things didn't work out between them. It turns out that that was a lie to cover up her real secret: she was actually a teenage pop star in Canada.
- One Castle episode has the Case of the Week involve an amnesiac who turns out to be divorced when his identity is discovered. When he asks why they split up:
"You were a jerk. But so was I. I mean the fact is, we probably got married too young."
- Adam Again's frontman Gene Eugene and backing singer Riki Michelle got married in their late teens. The stress of a marriage they weren't prepared for crept into Gene's songwriting, and the band's last two albums were significantly darker than their prior work: Dig (written as their marriage was falling apart) and Perfecta (written right after their divorce).
- In Relient K's "Deathbed", the protagonist has a Shotgun Wedding after getting a girl pregnant. It doesn't end well. She cheats on him, eventually divorces him, and takes the kids too:
Got married on my twenty-first, eight months before my wife would give birth.It's easier to be sure you love someone when her father inquires with the barrel of a gun.The union was far from harmonious. No two people could've been more alone than us.The years would go by and she'd love someone else, and I'd realize I hadn't been loved yet myself.
- In The Specials' "Too Much Too Young", the singer laments that the girl in the song is too tied down with a marriage and a son to have fun with the singer.
- Similar to Gene Eugene above, Joy Division's Ian Curtis married his wife Deborah Woodruff at the age of 19. He felt constrained as the band's career started to take off, and the couple grew apart, which is one of the factors in his suicide.
- Despite others protesting that they were incompatible, High-School Sweethearts Brenda and Eddie from Billy Joel's "Scenes From An Italian Restaurant" married sometime after high school. They divorced not too long afterwards.
- Rick and Morty has this for Beth and Jerry, with the added complication that they married shortly after Jerry got Beth pregnant. Fast forward 17 years, and they have a very strained relationship that teeters on a divorce every so often.
- Subverted in Jem. One episode had it appear as if Kimber, who is still a teen, was going to marry one of her boyfriends. Jerrica thought it was foolish and rushed, but decided to support her sister anyway. In the end, though, Kimber broke off the wedding while at the altar.