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No ‘perfect age’ for getting married

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I am 19 and in a very serious relationship with the man of my dreams. I was kind of wondering, what age do you think is too young to get married? Thanks! — Debbie, Saco, Maine

I can sit here and give you a specific age like you asked, Debbie, but then I wouldn't be giving you the best advice I can. There is no "perfect" age to get married, because everyone is different and every situation is unique. Here's what I can tell you about me: If I had married John, the guy I was totally in love with at your age (I dated him until I was about 22), I would have ended up totally miserable, because both of our lives ended up changing so dramatically that I can't imagine the relationship would have worked. But on the other hand, Danielle, my friend from high school, got married to Angelo right after school, and they're still together, have a couple of kids and couldn't be happier. What keeps them together is that they both value the family first and foremost, and they both make their decisions accordingly, so they're always on the same page. That avoids the kind of conflict John and I would have had if we had gotten married. My point is that above everything, you have to have shared values and goals. That way, you can continue to build a life together that leaves you both happy and fulfilled. Most people don't know exactly what they want out of life at 19 years old — that's why they wait to get married. But I can't pretend to know you or your boyfriend, so that's an assessment you're going to have to make for yourself. At the end of the day, it can't hurt to wait, right? That way, you can feel clearer about your decision. Also, once you get engaged, I would recommend having very serious conversations about your futures to make sure that you both want the same things out of life. I'm not sure whether you're religious, but many couples find it helpful to speak to a priest or rabbi and go through the various challenges that might come up in a life spent together, like having children, etc. I would urge you to make sure you've asked all the important questions before diving in.

I don't really like my dad's girlfriend. She drinks way too much. She had to go to a correctional facility for one year for drinking so much. She just got back, and I don't know how to tell my dad that I don't want her around our house. What do I say? — Erika, 13, Middletown, Conn.

The best way to talk to your father about his girlfriend is to do it without making any demands, because that never works in any discussion. If you just say you don't want her at your house anymore, you guys will probably end up in a screaming match because he obviously disagrees. And that won't get you any closer to a resolution. Instead, tell him you want to discuss something difficult that's been bothering you for a while, and then talk about what you're specifically worried about. And focus on coming up with a solution. That way, you'll be closer to actually figuring this out and not just fighting about it. Just be prepared that the resolution might not be the one you're hoping for (like maybe your dad wants to give her another chance if she has stopped drinking). But having that conversation is the first step toward figuring it all out.

Questions may be sent directly to Atoosa Rubenstein at: dearseventeen@hearst.com. Atoosa Rubenstein, the founding editor of CosmoGirl! magazine, is the editor in chief of Seventeen magazine. © King Features Syndicate Inc.