Younger Sister Marries Before Older Sister

8:00 AM


"Don't freak out, but I'm getting married."

I definitely freaked out in the 6 stages mentioned above. "I don't know why I'm crying," I blubbered to my roommate. "I'm happy for her."

"It's okay," said the roommate who never ever cries. "When my sister got engaged, I cried too."

"She won't be here anymore," I sobbed to my boyfriend. (She'll live a few blocks away.) "She was always there for me. She's my best friend."

After the depths of despair, I got into the habit of subtly working this triumphant information into just about every conversation: "Yeah, you know, my sister's getting married."

"That's awesome!" most conversations go. "Wait, you have an older sister?"

"No. She's my younger sister." 

"Oh. Wait. How old is she?"

"She just turned eighteen. I'll be going to her graduation in a couple weeks."

How do you feel about that? I can see that question flicker across people's faces as the conversation shifts to another topic. A couple friends-in-the-know emailed or called me to ask how I took the news. "You're still loved!" they assured me. "We still care about your relationship!" 

I'm surprised to say that I handled the news quite well. The idea of a younger sister marrying before me and two other older siblings shocked me, to be honest. I like order. I like systems -- not an authoritative hierarchy but a mutual, established understanding of how relationships relate. For some reason, it's allowable for me to marry before my older brother, but a younger sister marrying before me -- and only after a year of dating compared to my two long years of dating -- that threw me.

I have this theory that because women are relational, they sometimes ignore their real emotions and instead project "normal women's feelings" as their own. Deep down, I knew that sisters getting married in any order made no difference in the world. Still, I initially felt a teensy weensy weird about it. Not jealous. Just a little topsy turvy. Like a big sister should when her little sister gets married before her.

When I was younger and eighteen seemed like the epitome of adulthood, I wanted to be married at age eighteen. I was in the throes of stay-at-home daughterhood and thus entertained no higher educational plans, so marriage seemed the obvious next step. No waiting, no wondering. Life all planned out according to me.

A little sister marrying before a big sister reminds the big sister that relationships do not proceed according to a schedule. Happy marriages do not come to every person when she reaches a certain age, marrying off the siblings in order of birth. Love takes its time. It's not the next step for everyone. This means I've got to be confident in who I am and the path I'm traveling, instead of relying on a fantasy timeline. 

It also scared me to let go of my "big sister role," my sisterly superiority, my imagined self as the guru of everything a younger sister needed to know about life. It hurt my pride to think of myself ever needing to ask a younger sister for advice about sex, relationships, and, basically, what it was like to be married. Hello, people. I skimmed the online articles. I wrote the blog posts. I read both the regular and the singles edition of The Five Love Languages. I clearly earned the right to man the sister hotline. 

All my books read and thoughts written about marriage mean almost nothing next to the real experience of being married. I had an Aquinas moment: "All of my work is as straw compared to reality." You know, I needed that moment. I need that boot off the high horse. What did it matter if I no longer appeared like the fountain of wisdom? In this instance, I had to love instead of lead. Topsy turvy. The second brother chosen over the eldest. First shall be last. All good things for me to remember.

Was it hard for me to see my younger sister's one-year dating relationship culminate in an engagement and an August wedding, just as they planned? Yes, a little, especially as I overcame the shock of my sister getting married.

It helped to remember that my boyfriend and I are not ready to marry by our own choice and admission, but it hurt because, well, I like everything to go my way. My ideal relationship timeline looks a lot more like theirs and a lot less than mine! Seen in the light of their swoon-worthy love story and seamless relationship progression, my own relationship timeline worried me: Wait, am I doing something wrong if I'm not even engaged after two years of dating? Did we miss a turn somewhere?

My pride and selfishness issues never went as far as jealousy or resentment. Since when did my sister getting married have anything to do with me being a single college girl? That realization in the first initial 24-hour shock helped me separate my sister's upcoming marriage from my own life

And once I got over myself, by golly, I Googled the heck out of wedding dress options.

P.S. You need to read their love story and proposal story. So stinkin' cute.

P.P.S. NEVER post a selfie of yourself with your sister's invite to be her bridesmaid. At least, not with the caption, "I said yes!" Not unless you want the embarrassment of people you barely know dutifully liking the photo because they misinterpreted the context. . . .


Do you have an engaged or married sister? Tell me your stories!

Note: Hey, friends! Just as an FYI, I won't be publishing disparaging comments about my sister's decision to marry young. If you have questions, please email me privately. Thanks!

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22 impressions

  1. "I had to love instead of lead." That's good stuff right there.

    Comparison is one of the Devil's best tools. He can wreak all sorts of havoc with that--discontentment, doubt, pride, and legalism (to name a few).

    It seems like you got to Stage 6 very quickly. Good for you. =)

    I love you, Bailey. <3

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    1. You're so right! I'm thankful I got to stage 6 so quickly and then stayed there because of encouragers like you! <3

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  2. So many good points in this article! I really like what you said about being content with the path you are traveling right now. Although I'm not in a relationship, I'm learning to be content with my life and live it to the fullest, instead of wasting time on comparison. Thanks for sharing this!

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    1. That's awesome, Candice! I'm so glad every girls is basically traveling the same path of contentment, regarding her particular season in life.

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  3. My baby sister got married at 19. I was 23 at the time. So I can relate to a lot of the feelings described here. I'd say I experienced stage 3, 4, and 5 simultaneously for a long time though. I didn't get to stage 6 until after the wedding, probably because at that point i realized my brother in law was not going away, and he was actually making our lives way more fun. :) A lot of people expressed skepticism at her getting married at 19. I don't think it's anyone's business what age someone is getting married at. Just like it's not one's business to infer why I'm not married at almost 30 now. Not to say they won't have their own set of challenges from being married so soon. My sister and brother in law sure did. But on the other hand, I've had a whole set of challenges my sister has never had to deal with. She hasn't gotten to travel and have experiences like i have, but she has three beautiful babies and a great husband. She has a lot of love in her life. God has a plan for everyone and like you said it's often way better than any plan we'd conjure up for ourselves. I wouldn't go back and change my life to be married at 19, as much as i wanted to be married at 19 at the time. I'm sure you'll feel the same way, as frustrating as this time of waiting is for you guys. :)

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    1. I love that you shared this all with me, Karen!! It's great to find a kindred spirit in life experiences. And for the record, it's awesome that you get to travel. I love reading about single girls and their adventures as much as I love reading about girls in relationships. Our God's individual plans are so fascinating!

      Out of curiosity, was it hard for you to accept your sister's marriage because she was getting married before you, because she was getting married so young, or because you didn't approve of her husband? Or was it more like me, just personal stuff you had to get over?

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    2. I think it was all of the reasons that made it hard for me to accept it. She was young. I had a hard time believing that my now brother-in-law was "good enough" for her. It was REALLY hard that she got married first when up to that point, I'd done everything first! And personal stuff. At the time I had just graduated college and was dealing with all the accompanying feelings of "who am I?" "what am I going to do now?" so that didn't make the whole thing easier.

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    3. That totally makes sense. I'm sorry you had to go through that.....it's hard to be supportive and wise all at the same time while still dealing with personal questions. I'm so glad everything worked out and that you maintained such a good attitude about it!!

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  4. Same here, Bailey, same here! My little sister (remember her?) is also getting married straight out of high school, but my stages of shock were twice as complex because of how close I was with the man she's marrying. Imagine your big brother and your little sister getting married at the exact same time. Yeah, it's kinda like that.
    I am also in the habit of working this triumphant information into every conversation. It's so fun! But I worry it makes poor, single me look pathetic. Like you, I keep wondering why she's getting married so young while I'm still single. Is there something wrong with me? Am I doing something wrong? And yes indeed, the sudden sisterly role reversal is weird. In short, I've had to learn to trust God about it all.

    I read your sister's story, and you're right: it's so stinkin' cute!
    <><

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    1. Wait, how did I not know this?! We need to commiserate about losing our sisters to marriage! *cough*

      I was really self-conscious about talking about my sister's upcoming marriage for a while for a similar reason: Will people think I'm jealous? Will people think I'm pathetic?

      Don't doubt your worth, dear friend. You're a thoughtful, smart woman with a heart for God. You already know this, but your story is just as important and special to God as your sister's.

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    2. Thank you so much. Those words are so comforting. :)
      <><

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  5. Jasmine, in case you read this, I'm so grateful for you comments! Wow. I'm glad I'm not alone in having these feelings. *Hugs* to you friend!

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    1. Hugs back to you, girl! I've loved the shared "I'm not the only one" moments we've been able to encourage one another in. Keep being awesome. :)

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  6. I am the oldest and with my wedding coming up I am wishing I had a sister to ask about what marriage is like lol. It's kind of crazy that your sister is getting married young, but I don't say that in a bad way. I have a friend who is getting married and she is just 18 too. It's exciting! And God will be with you in your "different" love story, even as you may feel a little confused as to how to feel about it.

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    1. But that's what moms are for, right? :D My circle of married friends is increasing, so I'll have lots of marital advisers if I ever get married! I find young love terribly exciting and sweet. Thanks for encouraging me, Justine!

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  7. I've been DYING for this post. :) :) FINALLY. =)

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  8. "My ideal relationship timeline looks a lot more like theirs and a lot less than mine!" - Same here!!! Mu older brother got engaged, after few months of dating, and here am I, dating for two years already, with little perspective to marriage ahead (Two more years of college, hang on there. Two more years. Two more years). AND YES! My relationship seems to be peppered with dissapointment, guilt, and hurt (mixed with crazy joy and closest friendship), and theirs seems so innocent, so pure, so effortless, so joyful and cloudless. They experience the luxury of not having to always remind themselves "Oh, no. Not another hug. Not another kiss. We still have to wait. Wait. WAIT!" I confess I had a heard time with that feeling - they seem so cute and happy, we seem so not cute and so less happy. Still not sure I'm over it. But trying to!

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    1. Ruxee! My heart breaks for you. I don't know if this will help, but no relationship is perfect ever and no relationship is effortless always. Every single couple who I thought innocent and ideal has gone through hard times -- temptation, arguments, internal conflict. If they haven't gone through it, they're in for a rude awakening once marriage hits. ;)

      I feel like the issue a lot of times is not between perfect and not perfect couples but between couples who are comfortable with conflict and change and couples who are more chill. I'm not afraid of conflict. I'm always evaluating and rethinking and reforming our relationship, so ours looks more rocky just because we're always under construction! Other couples hate conflict, so their relationship looks flawless. My counselor said that those couples struggle more because they can't communicate or resolve issues. So be encouraged that many of your "rocky issues" may actually be symptoms of hearts that want to love Jesus and each other. Your problems may actually be signs of your strengths.

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  9. As the one who watched countless friends walk down the aisle, I can feel for you. 21 and a half years of singleness with absolutely no possibilities. Numerous younger friends married and beginning a life that I had no point of reference for, no connection with, and then having beautiful babies. I finally realized that God had a lot to teach me, and I'd best shut up and submit to His authority! Among so many, many other things, God wanted me to focus on Him and serving Him where I was. Serving my family, ministering to the friends God had placed in my life, serving at church and the opportunities that singleness gave. He wanted me to learn to rely on Him and trust Him no matter what.

    As it turned out, I was waiting on my future husband to grow up. Yesterday (the 13th) was the one year anniversary a 19 year old young man from Wyoming met a 21 year old girl from Oklahoma. In New York, by the way. 6 weeks later he asked to begin a relationship with me. January 13th, the day before I turned 22 and the 6 month anniversary of that first hello, he asked me to be his wife. And now we're 18 days away from beginning a life of service to our Savior together. We're also moving to a brand new state the day after we get married. We've never even lived in the same time zone before, so we're kind of excited. It's been a super tough relationship. We've seen each other about every other month for a week or less. We have two different families with two different ways of doing things and tension and conflict is bound to arise. We've faced miscommunication and had struggles different then those in a non long distance relationship face. God has used the distance to grow our trust and reliance on Him, and it has been quite the learning process. I entered the relationship happy, but with no emotional or physical attraction to him. It's hard to have those things develop with a relationship that is just a name or face on the screen! We've talked only 2 days a week for 2 hours since the relationship began. You cannot tell me that it's not the hand of God that has brought us together! Some things are also challenging in that my family and friends have not gotten to know him as I have, something that will only take time to remedy. But God is good. All the time. Even in the struggles, He is faithful and trustworthy.

    Hang in there, Bailey dear! When I saw the news I was praying that this exciting and potentially uncomfortable news would not be a cause of tension or conflict between you and your sister. It's hard when God writes stories differently than what we mentally plan or expect, but over and over again, God makes the stories even more incredible than we can imagine!

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    1. Savannah! Thank you for sharing your story. What a crazy, God-directed love story with such a happily ever after! Congratulations on your upcoming marriage! (Two weeks!!!) I appreciate your prayers and concern. I struggled with all the younger girls in my hometown getting engaged and married in less time it took me to date my boy (all three younger friends COMBINED hadn't been in a relationship as long as I had). It brought many tears, a lot of anger, and a lot of confusion loooong after I wrote this post.

      But you're right. God is good. He is so so good. I wish I would have trusted that during the bitter nights. :) Now I see more clearly what He's doing.

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    2. Thank you!

      I saw a lot of my pride coming out in the years I watched countless friends follow the Lord's leading and marry. In my community- church and homeschool group, I've always been the oldest. I've always been the first to do everything. Then I would go to younger friends and help them through. I was forced to look at myself and my actions in a new light when other younger friends started moving forward in a direction I had never been. Was I desiring to lift others up and point them to Christ? Or was I getting a kick out of being the one they came to for advice? It was a hard season, but the Lord used it to refine my heart in ways that my not have happened had I been the first down the aisle.

      I feel for ya, sister! The struggle is real. But rest assured that you have been a great blessing to so many who have never even met you. The Lord is using you for His glory and purposes even now. I'm excited to see where the Lord leads you, and I will continue to pray for you, your man, your sister and her fiancé.

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