Why We Ditched the “Young Married” Groups

In a way, getting married felt a little like going away to college: new living arrangements, new things to learn, new social schedule, and lots of invitations to join new groups. In particular, we kept on getting invited to join groups specifically geared for young marrieds: camping groups, cooking clubs and bible studies – all populated by excited newlyweds just like ourselves.

At first, young marrieds groups seemed to be just the ticket, exactly the kind of thing we needed and wanted in this new phase of our lives. However, we decided to forego the young marrieds groups, and ten years down the line we are so glad we did.

Here’s why. Young marrieds groups, by definition, excluded two groups of people that we desperately wanted to stay connected to: singles and older married couples.

Staying single-minded
The church already honors, exalts and highly encourages marriage. Those who have spent more than a decade in the church as a single adult, as my husband and I had before we met, have often joined in the praise and honor of marriage, but been left feeling like we were second-class citizens as single people. We had both experienced the pain of having close friends who, once married, seemed to have no space for us at their dinner table unless we had a plus-one.

When the time came for us to move from singleness to married, we both wanted to make sure we left space to affirm and celebrate our friendships, both with single and married friends. We chose to stay in a bible study with a mixture of single and married people, and wanted to avoid ever having to say to a single friend “sorry, I can’t invite you – it’s a young marrieds dinner/party/study.”

Ten years down the line, I have retained some precious friendships with those single friends I had to specifically make time for in the early days of marriage when double-dating other newlyweds was so exciting. Some of those friends are now married, others remain single; but what’s important is that they are still friends.

Making new-old friends
The second reason we decided to forego the young marrieds group was that my husband and I realized early on that we desperately needed some people-who-were-not-our-parents who had more experience in wedded-land than we did.

Our first year of marriage was hard. We took it in turns to be unemployed, we moved half way around the world, we were broke and lived out of suitcases in friends’ living rooms for nearly two months in our first months of marriage. As if circumstantial tension wasn’t enough, we also had vastly different communication styles and ways of handling stress (me: talk about it, him: talking makes it worse).

We needed support and encouragement, but we knew we needed more than other newlyweds who could offer no more than a sympathetic “us too!” as we all pooled our marital ignorance.

We needed older, married couples who could say to us “yes, us too… and this is how it worked out years later”. We needed the “yes, we also faced that, and this is what we learned over time.” We needed someone who could discern between a “honey, that’s a minor issue you’re crying over, just let that one go” kind of issue, and a “whoa – you need to address that thing and do it NOW” kind of problem.

We deliberately prayed for and sought out the company of older couples. Our criteria at first were pretty simple: find people at church who look like they like their spouse, then have the courage to talk to them, and if it seems like there’s a conversation there – PURSUE IT! We invited couples twenty years our senior over for dinner. We brazenly invited ourselves over to their houses. We seriously-jokingly told them we were taking notes on how to be happily married while with them. We asked them questions, we invited their advice.

If life-on-life mentoring was going to take place, we needed to make an effort to build intergenerational friendships. Friendships with other young marrieds were easy to make: dinner invitations and game nights and double dates all flowed from regular church life. Friendships with older, married couples – couples with kids and history and grace for each other – THOSE friendships were going to take more deliberate intention.

Four years into our marriage, we had a troubled season. Graduate school, financial stress and the ever-present “should we have kids?” question was hanging over our heads. My husband was withdrawn, I was distraught. In that season, God used one married girlfriend, two beloved single girlfriends, one wise widow and the loving and prayerful counsel of an older married couple to walk us through those tough months. It took the whole village to raise us in our marriage.

In the end, our decision not to join a young marrieds group was not a NO to young marrieds fellowship. Other newlyweds were a group with whom we had a natural connection anyway. Rather, we decided to forego the young marrieds group so that we could say YES more often and more fully to two other beloved and necessary groups: our single friends and our new-older friends.

We’re so grateful we did. Tempting as it was to climb into the cocooned community of couples, the counsel, love, perspective and fellowship of our single and older-married friends were instrumental in helping us start marriage right.


Bronwyn Lea loves Jesus, writing, ice-cream and the sound of her children laughing. She writes about the holy and hilarious things in life at bronlea.com, where she also hosts a faith and relationship advice column. Find her there, or follow her on Facebook or on Twitter.

  • Great article! So good to see you over here at Start Marriage Right! 😉 Thank you for providing such insightful words based on your own experience. What a blessing it is to learn from and grow as a result of the input of others. Grateful for the Lord’s grace in providing such fuel to sustain your marriage. Overlaps a bit with a piece I wrote a while back: http://www.startmarriageright.com/2013/02/the-impact-of-a-godly-example/ .. Thanks again for sharing!

    • Thanks Kate! I am so thankful for the counsel of Nobles and others in our paths 🙂 Thanks too for the intro to SMR!

  • Sarah Miranda

    What a smart decision, and I’m so glad you did. I can see how you two are a wise couple who still like each other, and you can be the example for others.

  • Tim

    We skipped the young marrieds group too, Bronwyn. We also skipped all the other age or other affinity related groups. Not that they are wrong for everyone, but they were certainly wrong for us.


  • What a great post! My husband and I are still in the first few years of our marriage and we are in a similar place: lots of young single friends and more and more older married friends. In fact, at a friend’s recent wedding, we were placed at the table with all our single friends while our married friends all sat together elsewhere! I love both the single and older-married groups. I love getting the stories and wisdom and laughter and reassurance from the latter. I love being able to impact young singles and tell them what marriage is really like: not perfect or ideal, but not torture either; rather, a blessing.

    But sometimes I get lonely for young married friends. I want to talk about sex or birth control or these early child-less years with someone who’s in the same spot. Just one married girlfriend, maybe. I don’t have any. When I was single, my girlfriends who got married were suddenly never available to hang out, and one of them stopped talking to any of her single friends at all. But the sad thing is, that continued to happen after we got married. The same friends still don’t have time for me. Since I’m married too, they can no longer pull the I’m-married-and-therefore-more-busy excuse, and I’m left wondering what’s the cause of all this introverted-marriage stuff.

    I guess what I’m saying is that maybe young marrieds need to hear what you’re saying but they need to hear more than that, too. So many young marrieds go “inwards” on themselves. To some extent I get it; my husband and I have definite boundaries surrounding “us” time and leaving lots of room for things like sex and important compromise-related discussions. But that doesn’t mean we’ve restricted ourselves to a dozen choice friends. So many young marrieds get rid of friends to make time for each other, but I think you can just lessen your commitments and bring each other into the lives you had before, modelling healthy marriage boundaries to singles. I have found that getting to know one another’s friends has not been hard, and it has been rewarding to see my husband continue flourishing with his close friends. And I have found that while serving my husband and building my marriage is my priority, sometimes we are best served and built up when we serve others together. Instead of going inward, young marrieds need to learn how to–carefully, discernedly–build outwards.

    • Yes! I totally agree. In fact, you inspired me to write about something that has been a bug bear of mine for a while: the insular “you complete me” view of marriage ( http://wp.me/p3zH10-77 ) Thanks for commenting 🙂

      • yes, I read that one! Good thoughts. 🙂

  • Les Palmer

    Rising very early this morning and not wanting to wake my very tired hub I came across your writings Bron. You have some great insights! I particularly resonate with this article.

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