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Married Too Young

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Kirito: Hey, do you think getting married was the worst mistake of our lives?
Asuna: W-W-What do you mean? Don't you wanna be married to me? I wanna be married to you! DON'T YOU LOVE ME?!?!?
Kirito: No! I mean, yes! I mean—
Asuna's Left-Brain: What the fu... What the hell are you doing?! THAT WAS OUR OUT!!
Asuna's Right-Brain: I dunno, I panicked!

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 generally poor medical care) 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. Most people today prefer to spend their young adult years establishing their own lives, careers, and identities before tying the knot, and relationships often last years before someone pops the question. If anything, getting married too young and/or too soon into a relationship is seen as impulsive.

This trope is what happens when characters get married young, however it doesn't turn out as they had hoped. Maybe two High-School Sweethearts 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, especially since an unplanned pregnancy is often the cause of such marriages in the first place.

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 one of them simply runs off. In some instances, the couple is still happy together, but it doesn’t erase the regret of lost youth.

Often leads to (or is the result of) Teen Pregnancy. Also see Shotgun Wedding, Fourth-Date Marriage, Awful Wedded Life, Dead Sparks, Starter Marriage, and High-School Sweethearts where it actually does work out. Contrast with One True Love and First Girl Wins.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Oishinbo has an inversion where a couple's relationship becomes problematic because they married too old, and as a result their personal habits and lifestyle are too ingrained in their life to compromise when it clashes with their other half's. In one chapter, they get into a bitter fight over how to cook clam shells and starts giving each other the cold shoulder for several days. When the woman's younger friend tells her to let it go, as she was able to smooth out petty conflicts with her husband with relative ease, she points out that compromising with one's habits to avoid conflict is much easier to do when you are young.

    Comic Books 
  • 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.

    Fan Works 
  • Fresh Blood: Subverted with Stormer, who almost married her boyfriend early into their relationship but broke it off upon learning he was a cheater.
  • 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.
  • In the Pokémon 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.
  • In My Little Pumpkin, Delia worries that she and Victor are having marital issues due to the fact they married young. They were High-School Sweethearts who got married right away. They both love their son and love each other to a degree too, but Victor clearly wasn't ready to be tied down by a family yet.

    Films — Animation 
  • Frozen: This is one of the plot points. 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.
  • The art book to Treasure Planet explains that this is why Jim's dad ran off. He married the then-17-year-old Sarah when he was 19. 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Control, a biopic of Joy Division's Ian Curtis mentioned in the Music folder, Ian and Debbie date as teenagers, and get married only a couple years out of school. They’re 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 hangs himself before they go through the court. Sadly, the events in this film are very much Based on a True Story.
  • 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.
  • 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 high society, 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. Age gap aside, he actually has more in common with Alex due to their similar backgrounds.

  • Olivia Vandergriff from The Overstory gets impulsively married in college, and divorces very quickly when she realizes how bad an idea it was.
  • Ash's Disappeared Dad hasn't been discussed much in the Pokémon: The Series, 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 Pokémon 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.
  • Carol in the Alice Series cites this to be one of the reasons why her first marriage didn't turn out well. It was a whirlwind romance at 19, she dropped out of college to elope, and she realized two years into the marriage that there was nothing substantial between the two of them to keep things going.
  • The Tenant of Wildfell Hall: Helen Lawrence marries Bad Boy Arthur Huntington believing she can redeem him through 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.
  • The Twilight Saga: 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.
  • Taken to the most dreadful logical consequences in The Cousins' War Series. As in real life, Margaret Beaufort is married at eleven, impregnated at twelve, and traumatizingly giving birth at thirteen, which leaves her unable to ever be pregnant again. Screw "this was normal at the time": the midwives are horrified to be assisting an actual child in childbirth.
  • Adrian Mole marries his first wife Jo Jo in his early twenties. The marriage lasts only a few years, and he later considers that he was too young for it. He was still not over losing his first love Pandora, who was already married (although that was a marriage of convenience that she never intended to last.) Adrian's main interest in Jo Jo was that she was beautiful and he thought she was out of his league.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 18 to Life: The main premise of the show. On a dare, Tom and Jessie marry at age 18 (hence the title), which their parents are opposed to. It's not only because of their age (Jessie's parents are opposed to getting married in general), though a major factor. However, despite difficulties they make this work and their parents later accept it.
  • Boy Meets World: Topanga's parents admit they married too young when they reveal they're divorcing each other, having lost the spark they had as Highschool Sweethearts. This becomes a worry for Cory and Topanga who likewise are barely out of high school when they decided to tie the knot and fear they'll end up the same way. But Feeny's own upcoming marriage, a man long past his prime, convince them they can make it work long as they continue to put effort into it.
  • 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."
  • Zigzagged on The Golden Girls. Though Dorothy and Stan married at seventeen because he got her pregnant, they surprisingly stayed together for thirty-eight years and managed to make it work, especially for their two children; however, there was clearly a lot of resentment and frustration in the marriage, and they likely would have been better off apart. Stan eventually leaves Dorothy after having a mid-life crisis and cheating on her—and, throughout the series, confesses that he was unfaithful several times during the marriage as well, much to Dorothy's anger. Ultimately, though, it's clear that Dorothy and Stan have come to genuinely love one another over the course of nearly four decades; they're simply too incompatible to like each other and can't reconcile their clashing personalities enough to live in the same house.
    • Late in the series, it's revealed that Sophia was forced into an Arranged Marriage as a teenager in Sicily. She left her groom at the altar, had the union formally annulled, and sneaked away to the United States as soon as possible, but views the situation as an Old Shame and keeps it a secret from Dorothy.
  • 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.
  • Jet and Whelan go undercover in a jewelry store as a married couple in Law & Order: Organized Crime. Bell and Elliot, listening in from the van, find the interaction hilarious as much as it is awkward. Later, during another scouting mission, the two detectives discuss the sting op, and Jet tells Whelan that she was once married. They got married when she was 20, and the charade in the store struck a nerve.
  • Deconstructed in Roseanne. Roseanne and Dan got married right after high school—largely because she was pregnant with Becky—but they do genuinely love one another enough to make their relationship work. However, neither of them was truly ready to be a parent, and one of the main themes of the series is them struggling to reconcile their love for each other with their resentment and frustration over giving up their dreams to settle down and take care of their children. Dan wanted to be a musician and Roseanne a writer. While these are admittedly youthful ambitions that every teenager has, situations arise where they have to confront the fact that their current lives aren't what they hoped for, and they urge their kids not to make the same mistakes. In "Fights and Stuff"—one of the darkest episodes of the show where the two unload all of their anger at each other in a destructive argument—Dan blurts out that he wishes he'd never married Roseanne, which is the only thing he says that truly hurts her.
    • The show's treatment of getting married too young continued with Becky and Darlene. The former drops out of high school and elopes with her boyfriend Mark, giving up on her plans to go to college (it doesn't help that Dan and Roseanne use her tuition fund to open a bike shop that ultimately fails, leaving her desperate and angry), while the latter marries her own boyfriend David at 19, largely because she too is pregnant and it's pragmatic for them to get together. The sequel series reveals that both marriages ended up failing. Mark dies and leaves Becky an alcoholic wreck of a widow, and her Character Development over the series is her confessing that she's angry at him for the way he treated her—and angry at herself for allowing her desperation to cloud her judgment and cause her to waste her potential. Meanwhile, Darlene and David end up divorcing, because the differences in their personalities were too big to overcome.

  • 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).
  • 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.
  • "Where I Wanna Be" by Donnell Jones is about a man who is married (or just committed) to his high school sweetheart, but now that he's in his 20s, he wants to break up with her so he can play the field as an adult. He laments having to hurt her this way since she has done nothing to deserve it, but he can't deny that he feels trapped in the relationship. However, the song leaves open the possibility of getting back together in the future.
  • 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.
  • The woman in Reba McEntire's "Is There Life Out There" married at 20 and wonders if that was too young. She doesn't regret it enough to leave her family now, but she's not sure she would make the same choice if she could do it over.
  • 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.

    Video Games 
  • Subverted in Clock Tower 3. Protagonist Alyssa Hamilton is descended from a long line of women called "Rooders" who have inherent magical power that they use to fight the forces of evil. Since these powers peak at age fifteen and quickly wane afterward, Rooder women are encouraged (though not necessarily obligated) to marry as soon as possible and start having children immediately so that the monsters they struggle against remain in check. It helps that there are multiple Rooder bloodlines around the world, allowing the women a degree of flexibility in their timeline.
  • Stardew Valley: Jodi often expresses this sentiment, feeling that she missed the chance to live her own life before marrying and raising children. It doesn't help that her husband is off fighting in the war (and then returns as a Shellshocked Veteran), leaving her to work the household alone.
  • Yes, Your Grace: Lorsulia's Arranged Marriage happens when she's thirteen. While it's implied that women are considered eligible starting that age, it's also a plot point that Lorsulia's father would have taken more time to find her a good husband if he hadn't been in a hurry to form a military alliance. A few months into the marriage, it turns out that Lorsulia's new husband is abusive.

    Web Comics 

    Web Videos 
  • Sword Art Online Abridged spoofs the cliched romance between the teenage 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.

    Western Animation 
  • Exaggerated in Big Mouth, where Devin and Devon get married at thirteen, despite characters frequently pointing out how disturbing this child marriage is. Devin seems to only be doing it for clout and power in the relationship (as she is the school's Alpha Bitch and an Attention Whore), admitting she's likely to leave him before high school. They soon start experiencing problems when Devon gets sick of her bratty attitude and divorces her, though they renew their vows by the end of Season 5.
  • Subverted in Jem. One episode has it appear as if Kimber, who is still a teen, is going to marry one of her boyfriends. Jerrica thinks it is foolish and rushed, but decides to support her sister anyway. In the end, though, Kimber breaks off the wedding while at the altar.
  • 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. The episode "Rixty Minutes" shows several alternate universes in which they never got married and had more fulfilling lives (though they seem to end up back together in every universe).
    Jerry: Every family on this block has to wonder if they're together by choice. Our family just has inter-dimensional goggles to show us for a fact that we're not.
  • In The Simpsons, Homer and Marge married after Marge became pregnant with Bart. In the early seasons of the show, this occurred when they were in their early 20s, and while later seasons would age Homer and Marge up slightly to imply that they were closer to 30 when Bart was born, the trope remained in play due to Homer's Manchild nature meaning that he constantly struggles with his responsibilities as a husband and father, creating conflict in his marriage and his relationships with his kids (with at least one future timeline showing that he becomes Older and Wiser from the many mistakes he made along the way and proves an excellent grandfather). On the bright side, Homer's job keeps the family afloat and he's deeply in love with and loyal to Marge, despite everything.