Growing up Together

Today we’re featuring a guest post from one of our fabulous authors, Jen Hatmaker. Jen is the author of The 7 Experiment. Jen gives us a glimpse into her marriage of almost 20 years and the lessons gleaned along the way.

People, brace yourselves: Brandon was 21 and I was 19 when we married. Yes, you read correctly: a senior and sophomore. If I weren’t there, I would hardly believe it myself. (College sophomore reader? I was your age. Let it sink.)Jen & Brandon Hatmaker

Allow me a few thoughts on marriage, discovered the normal way…in hindsight. First, the upside. We were both so young, so freshly launched in our own skin, that we weren’t yet entrenched in our habits, our passions, our preferences. The main scaffolding was in place: our love for Jesus, a weird connection to the Church and its future, general emotional health, and crazy, mad love. With the structural elements cemented and supporting load-bearing walls, something happened after the wedding:

We grew up together.

We developed walls and interior lighting and aesthetic beauty together. Rather than navigating our 20’s as two individuals then attempting to blend very developed lives together, we matured as one, writing a new story with our lives. I cannot imagine where I would be today at 38 without Brandon helping me learn who I was at 22. There is no part of my adult story that doesn’t include his wisdom and balance, his perspective and discernment. There is no me without him. This is not my life I added him to one day, crimping my style. This is our life, every piece of it, each memory, every adult moment we built together. There is no “before you” that he must overcome.

As a bright reader, you’ve guessed correctly there is an underbelly to marrying so young. For instance, we banked just north of 11K our first year of marriage. While that is a hilarious sound byte now, financial struggles are nothing to sniff at. We slogged and sloughed our way through poverty, and emerged with some bad habits, some debt, some scars. We did not surface unscathed.

More importantly, we simply hadn’t developed the building blocks of a happy union yet: compromise, communication finesse, selflessness, wisdom. These took time, and although we slowly acquired them, we left many ugly words and regrettable decisions in our early wake. Could we have avoided them if we were older? Probably. I don’t know. Those first couple of years are hard. They just are. Two selfish people joining together for life is a miracle every time.

I wish I understood a few things sooner:

Lighten up.

Being right isn’t all it is cracked up to be.

Apologies are the new sexy.

If you can’t afford it, don’t figure out a way to buy it.

Couple friends are the best. Live life deeply with them.

Don’t go for the kill shot in anger. You’ll regret it and those words stick.

Get a couple of rocking chairs for your porch. Sit there together constantly.

That one thing you do that drives him crazy? Try to stop doing it.

Be silly together.

Pray constantly that God will make you more into His image.

Sex <—– this never stops being a thing.

Treat your spouse with the same care you treat your best friend.

Y’all, here we are, almost 20 years later. It worked. I mean, we have five kids. It really all worked out, man. God has written a beautiful story with our lives, and I wouldn’t trade a day of it. Okay, I’d maybe trade a few days of it, like that one time Brandon made me go camping…with his parents…in the desert…in a tent…

But all the other days are keepers.

Jen Hatmaker and her husband, Brandon, live in Austin, Texas where they lead Austin New Church and raise their brood. They pioneered Restore Austin, connecting churches to local and global non-profits for the spiritual and social renewal of Austin and beyond. Jen speaks at events all around the country. She is the author of nine books and Bible studies, including Interrupted and 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. Jen and Brandon have five children: Gavin – 14, Sydney – 12, and Caleb – 10, and they’ve recently added Ben – 9, and Remy – 7 from Ethiopia. Check out her ministry, schedule, and blog at


  1. says

    I married at 21 and all I can say is a resounding YES to every last word. Especially the sex. I’m still waiting for it to stop being a thing 17 years later;)

  2. says

    “There is no ‘before you’ that he must overcome.” That line resounded in my heart. These are hard lessons you’ve learned, and many of us are learning them right along with you two, within our own marriages. They need to be talked about. And AMEN to apologies being the new sexy. Yes and yes.

  3. Andrea says

    Yes! Yes! And Yes! Love this! There are benefits to marrying younger. Except some of my closest friends are single. Not to be overlooked. They remind me how blessed I am, and I also live vicariously through their exciting, dynamic, worldwide ministries that are beyond my reach as a married mom!

  4. Debbie says

    I was 4 days away from turning 30 when my husband and I married. It wasn’t my choice to wait so late in life. In God’s writing our story he just didn’t bring us together until we were older. I hated being single and desired deeply to be married. It was just a matter of waiting for God’s timing for us to even meet each other. We’re approaching 9 yrs. of marriage now, while most people my age are celebrating 12-19 years of marriage. We’re just now expecting our 2nd child and I’m pushing 40. I’m not complaining. I’m grateful for our story. It’s the way God’s providence unfolded for our lives.
    I guess I’m just trying to offer encouragement to others who married later in life like me, or maybe are still single through no choice of their own.

  5. Steve says

    Yes, Yes – I was 18 and she was 19. We were married 37 years when she went to be with the Lord. NO regrets – we grew up together and our lives were centered around the Lord. 4 kids and 12 grandkids when she left. I have re-married a widow who was married young also. Our families have accepted each other – we are blessed. Neither of us have regrets about our young marriage.

  6. says

    I was 20 and my husband was 18 when we got married. As you can imagine, we made a lot of mistakes. But despite this, I wouldn’t have chosen another person to grow up with (because, let’s face it – we have grown up together). We just celebrated 16 years this March and I cherish him more every day. What’s more, I am simply amazed at how our marriage has matured over the years. It is somewhat different than it was 16 years ago, but it’s definitely better. I know there have been times I wish I could erase and I know there are hard times ahead, but I know if he’s by my side, we can weather any storm with God’s help.


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