Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Alexis Bonari. I hope you enjoy these insights on young marriage while I spend a few days with my family on a bit of paternity leave. By the way, when we got married, I was 21 and Bethany was 20…and it worked out pretty well for us. 🙂
From a purely statistical standpoint, marriage before the age of 25 results in an over 50% probability that the marriage will end in divorce court. Despite the dismal statistics, many young couples still defy the odds and attempt a young marriage.
Speaking as a 25-year-old who met my same-age husband at the age of 19, and married at the age of 20, I can attest to both the joys and pitfalls of early marriage.
Before considering marriage, it would be wise to individually consider the following five questions. This will help you enter into marriage with your eyes open.
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Five Questions to Consider Before Marrying Young
1. Can you really say you’ve dated enough/traveled enough/lived alone enough/experienced enough to want to commit to a single person for the rest of your life?
If you have ANY hesitation in answering this question to the affirmative, STOP NOW! You’re not a bad person if you’re 19 and still wanting to experience the dating scene.
You will be a bad person if you agree to marry someone you love and then subsequently cheat on them/blame them for the loss of your freedom and youth. This is a relationship killer, so take note. If, however, you truly feel you have experienced everything you want to experience in the realm of dating or single life, go ahead to the next question.
2. How do you handle money? Do you know how your fiancé handles money? Do you agree?
Finances cause more divorces than infidelity.
I didn’t understand why this was the case until my husband and I were both out of college, out of work, our student loan bills were coming due, and I was pregnant. We loved each other through the whole experience, but the stress was unreal.
He and I have very different ways of approaching finances, and those differences were the source of much of our stress. Figure out where you stand on questions such as: how much debt is too much debt? If we have children will one of us stay at home with them?
3. Do you want children?
This is simple. If you don’t/do want to have children and your partner does/doesn’t, figure out a compromise or leave now.
It is completely unfair to expect someone to change their attitudes towards having children. This is a primal, deeply-seated issue for most people. For those who want kids, refusing to have them is like cutting out a piece of their soul. For those who don’t want kids, guilting them into having children is robbing them of their freedom and sense of self-direction.
No good can come from either option, so find some common ground.
4. Do you agree on basic core values involving sex and how to raise children?
Disagreement is healthy in moderation.
There are, however, some issues that sometimes cannot be resolved if both parties fundamentally disagree. Sex, money and child rearing are the three major categories that cause the most problems. People are highly unlikely to change their attitudes toward any of these, so don’t expect your partner to. If he looks at pornography now, he most likely will in thirty years. You’ve been warned.
5. Do you respect each other’s religious beliefs or lack thereof?
When my husband and I were first married, I was a Christian and he was from a multi-generational family of atheists. His father literally wrote the book on Biblical errancy, and my family went to church three times a week.
Our personal belief systems have changed over the years, but our respect for each other hasn’t. I didn’t try to convert him, and he didn’t treat me like I was a moron who believed in a sky fairy. We would never have survived if either one of us had crossed these lines.
Share Your Story
How old were you when you got married? Do you think that young marriage is a thing of the past or still a wise move?
I was 18 when I got married. My husband was 21. In some ways I agree with these questions, and in some ways I don’t. I had never lived alone, he hadn’t really traveled, and so on, but that didn’t change the way we felt for each other. We accepted that the decision we were making was going to change our entire lives and future, but we both accepted that part of things and agreed that since we both were going into this of our own free will that we couldn’t blame the other in the end.
We also came from very different financial backgrounds. My husband grew up very poor. I grew up rather well to do. Our views on money, what sort of life style we were used to and wanted in the future, and anything else related to finances were very different. However, we were both too young to be “stuck in our ways” about any of it.
This was the case with a lot of things. Wanting children or not, thoughts on sex, money, parenting, religion, politics, and just about everything else, we had different views. Yet, we were still too young for those things to really be set in stone. We experienced a lot together and as we went through the ups and downs of a young marriage, miscarriages, fights, pregnancies, births, moving, and everything else that goes with life, we grew together. We kept our communication about everything very open and made a point to talk about these things on a regular basis. We were young enough that we both had a lot of growing to do, and even though we didn’t agree on much when we married, life experience let us grow together.
My husband and I both agree that getting married young isn’t easy, but it was the best thing in the world for us. I think more couples that married young would be able to survive if they were taught that it can work, saw examples of times that it did work, and understood that in order for it to have a chance you have to be ready to talk about everything, fight like hell to keep things together when it gets tough, and do everything you can to encourage growing together.
We were told that we never had a chance because we were too young. Well, young or not, we’ve had some hard times and have come through even the worst of it as a stronger, happier couple. I can’t say the same for most of the couples we know, and most of them were older than us when they got married. I think young couples lack some of the support, I also think they are told that it’ll never work so much that they start to believe it. On top of that, no one ever bothers to tell them that love isn’t all butterflies and warm feelings and that it’s a choice that is sometimes harder than ever to make, but that’s what it is. Love is a choice that you have to make everyday, every moment, no matter how easy or hard it is. The other thing no one tells them is that they must talk about everything on a regular basis. Once a year, at least, we make sure to talk about everything all over again and see how things are lining up. Throughout the year we talk about almost everything on a very regular basis as it comes up in daily life, but sometimes things slip through the cracks. Having a planned time to talk about all the topics at least once a year makes sure that even the things that slipped through the cracks the rest of the year don’t end up completely neglected in the end.
Wow, what an awesome comment, Cassidy! Your story is wonderful. I agree with you that love is definitely a choice you make everyday once the infatuation of a new relationship wears off. For many young couples, this “love as a choice” idea may be new, but I think most of us are mature enough to deal with it. 🙂
I definitely feel that marrying young has developed a certain stigma. I got engaged at ate 18 and walked down the aisle at age 20 – my husband was 23. Every time I tell someone that, I get hit was comments about how crazy that is and questions like what you hit on here. I would argue that a good number of people are not ready to enter a marriage in their young twenties, but it certainly possible to thrive! One of the wonderful things about marriage is how it creates an environment for you to grow together as a couple and then into a family. Yes, it’s going to be a lot of work, but it’s worth it.
Fantastic, Sarah! There’s no question that marriage is a lot of work, particularly in the early years of getting a new household established, combining families, growing careers and having young children. I guess that’s what Engaged Marriage is here for! 😉
I hope marrying young becomes a thing of the past. I can’t imagine marrying anyone I met so young, and I’ve changed so completely even in the 3 years that Richard and I have been together (I’ll be 29 in a couple days.) I know many who have married young and divorced by the time they are 30. I would rather just not get married.
Oh, I should clarify we’re not married, though we’ve lived together for 3 years, and recently decided we didn’t want the pressures and tax burden associated with getting married, so we’ll stay living together and non-married for now.
The tax code, unfortunately, is antiquated and actually hurts high earners who decide to get married. I would only get married if I wanted to have kids. Right now I’m not particularly interested in having kids and am enjoying my foster kittens. 😉
Thanks for the clarification, too, Erica. I agree that any tax penalties for married couples are just deplorable. I’m curious, why do you draw the marriage line as necessary when you have children?
It’s a good question. I think mostly for society’s sake. i.e. I don’t want to constantly have to explain why I’m not married.
Our recent decision to not get married took a lot of pressure off our relationship. We were having some issues before then. Once we decided hey, let’s NOT get married, we relaxed a lot more and it’s back to being a better relationship now.
I would dread getting married. Of course, I also dread buying a house, and yet I am taking baby steps in that direction. Still, I think my fear of getting married is stronger. And my fear of having kids is, well, yeah, let’s not go there.
Erica, I’m glad you are posting here. I do want to ask you, does it trouble you that your significant other is not bound to be faithful to you and doesn’t want to be, either? Do you worry at all about what it may say about your relationship that neither of you is willing to commit for life? Just some questions that popped into my head as I read your reply.
Thanks for sharing your honest feedback, Erica. I think you’ll obviously be in the minority here in a pro-marriage community, but I can appreciate what you are saying and the examples that you’ve seen. Personally, I’ve seen more marriages fail among those that got married a little later in life, but I’d bet its fairly incidental in both cases.
I was 22 and my wife was 21 when we got married. Yes, we had some growing up to do and we had to get to know each other a little after we got married, but I wouldn’t change it for the world! It was the right choice for us.
Thanks, Eric. It’s interesting how many of the commenters were married young.
My wife and I married at 23, after being together for 4 years.
Financially, we were both clueless. We both paid our bills, but that was as far as our financial discussions or planning went. Credit was used at random, stuff was bought on impulse. We’re still digging out of that mess.
Having children was the easy question. We made it moot early and had our son be the ring bearer in the wedding.
All in all, we’ve had some rough patches, but we’ve done all right. I’m happy where I am.
My advice to others would be to have your feet firmly on the ground before you have kids. You have more options in a financial recovery before diapers, formula and daycare.
Thanks, Jason. My wife and I married when we were 20 and 21, and we were in a similar situation as you, minus the son. Although we can’t remember what we did during that time, we’re happy we waited for four years and got some better stability before we started having children.
I’m an optimist, and I truly believe that young marriage can work. Cassidy is a great example of that – and so are Dustin and Bethany. I think when you marry young, you simply have different experiences than you would’ve had if you’d stayed single. Not better or worse, just different. Love exists, and it can last forever – even when you meet The One when you’re very young.
I’m totally with you, Susan. My wife and I are high school sweethearts (gag, I know), and we know several couples who married young and are enjoying wonderful marriages 5-15 years later.
I was 21 when I got married, and my husband was 22. We met on our first day of college as freshman, when we were both 18. We got engaged at the end of our junior year of college. We graduated college early, got married in March of 2008, and moved right after for my husband to attend chiropractic school for 3.5 years – which brings us to where our lives are today. By the way, we are each other’s only real serious relationship. We didn’t plan it that way, or refrain from dating or anything – life just worked out that way.
Our marriage isn’t always rainbow and butterflies. No one’s is. But being married to this man is the joy of my life.
With that said, age has nothing to do with being ready to get married. It has everything to do with how mature of a human being you are. At 21, I had already gone through more horrible struggles in my life than I care to remember or recite, all of which made me more cautious/wise/informed beyond my years. While my husband had a more traditional (read: easier, I guess) upbringing and life up until that point, his goals and perseverance and character put him right on par with me.
Should all 21 year olds get married? No. Should all 45 year olds get married? No. Just because you’re more “stable” as far as your life plans go, does that mean you’re ready to get married? No. It’s all person-specific. There is no checklist that works for everyone that says, “Yep. You meet the criteria. Get married now.” – because any checklist doesn’t take into account the human beings.
Marriage is about finding a partner to go through life with – not giving up your hopes and dreams and ambitions to be someone’s spouse. I could have decided not to get married and pursued my goals and dreams on my own. But instead, I chose to pursue them with my best friend. And if you’re married to the right person, you’ll figure out a way to reach those dreams together. And it’ll be rewarding.
End comment. 🙂
Excellent comment, Lisa, and I thank you for sharing your story. I totally agree that it’s not age that determines readiness for marriage, but it’s interesting that the median age for marriage seems to get older and older. I wonder if that’s a sign of greater maturity or of lesser (slower) maturity? 😉
We were 20 when we got married. I thought I could answer yest to all of those questions. I thought I was going into this with my eyes open. My husband was my first kiss. He had been with other women and told me he found what he wanted and needed in me.
Apparently not as he has been unfaithful multiple times. There were deep secrets he held back that I only learned after going through abuse of different kinds, infidelity and starting a family.
I’d have to add it’s wise to also look at your in-laws. If they tend to be either too distant towards you or too pushy, consider how you will deal with that for decades to come. It tends to get worse when you have kids…or if you are unable to have them.
No, I would not do it again. Knowing what I know now, I understand some people are better at faking their maturity than others. A lifetime commitment doesn’t have to be rushed.
I am so sorry to hear about the hurt that you’ve been through, Jem. I really appreciate you sharing your story and your insights here.
I was 22 when I got married. My husband was 21. By today’s standards, that’s YOUNG. And I wouldn’t change a thing. God has blessed us for sure! <3
I got married in my very early twenties. I was a student halfway through college and my husband was unemployed. We had kids right away. All in all, it was the best thing we ever did, because it wasn’t about “leaving behind” a lifestyle we would have wanted or “hoping for” something different, but rather sinking right in to the life that we actually did want, with God leading the way. Several years later, I am the mother of several, I work at home part-time, and my husband is an amazing provider. We have everything we need.
I love your perspective, The Catholic Wife. It was about “sinking right into the we actually did want” is an awesome way to state it!
We weren’t super young when we got married. I was 23 and she was 24. To be honest, I don’t really think that age has that much to do with it. Obviously I think you need to be a little older than 16, but i also think it depends on the individuals.
I’ve heard the maturity arguments, the life experience arguments, and the enjoy your youth arguments. I’ve seen those be absolutely true in many cases, but I’ve also seen them be totally wrong in just as many. I believe has to do with how you were raised too. Part of parenting is teaching your kids about marriage – What it truly means to be in a marriage. That’s not something we see enough of today.
Money was never an issue that entered my mind when it came to “should I get married”. I barely had any and neither did she, but we loved each other and knew that we were the perfect team and always would be. It would literally break my heart to think that she wouldn’t want to marry me because she wouldn’t make as money.
> It would literally break my heart to think that she wouldn’t want to marry me because she wouldn’t make as money.
So true, Andy. The way I saw it, if we didn’t have any money when we got married, it could only get better, right? And I’ve recently come to the conclusion that having just enough money for our needs (not necessarily our wants) is a real blessing! I am thankful that all our needs are met and that I also have the freedom from materialism necessary to appreciate what really matters in life.
Absolutely! When you get rid of the “I” and focus on the “we”, you quickly realize the things that truly matter in your life. I’ve never seen my marriage as anything other than a blessing and this is one of those reasons. I hate to say it, but I know that if I didn’t have my wife as part of my team in life I would be shoulders deep in “me me me”. It’s human nature. It would scare me if someone I loved wasn’t willing to let go of that.
Amen, brother. I have to say that there’s not much room for selfishness in a successful marriage, and our attitudes about money are a great indicator of where we sit on that spectrum.
My parents married at 19 and 21 after dating for a little over 3 years. My husband and I were 22/23. I consider young marriage getting married before one or the other has had a chance to live outside their parents’ roof, especially if one or both are 19 or younger. There are still maturational changes going on in the reasoning area of the brain before this point, especially in areas devoted to planning, logic, and learning to relate to others who are not your peers (e.g. parents and other authority). This aspect of maturity, frankly, takes longer in men, hence, the stereotype of the young, selfish male (studies trying to quantify selfishness back this up, but obviously, it isn’t universal).
I would say the most important thing that would keep a young marriage afloat is this: Understand the commitment, and understand that the commitment will require you to become an “us”, an unselfish member of an “us” no matter what. It’s a promise, and to many readers of this blog, a promise made as part of a Christian faith. I would say marrying young can benefit those involved provided they understand the commitment, and I’ve seen many examples of this.
However, if I was counseling my 18 year-old son (he’s only 5 now) on whether he should marry his high school sweetheart before even leaving our home for college, I would want to have some long talks with him and encourage counseling from church family beforehand. Not necessarily to scare him away from marriage, but to speak to them both prior to making the commitment, ask those important questions (finance, kids, etc.), and make sure they communicate enough to work through any future issues they may have. In other words, I don’t have a problem with young marriage from a religious or life experience perspective, but I do have some issues with how much experience teenagers these days have with dealing with finances, conflicts, and adult responsibilities outside the halls of high school. Picking up a work ethic, basic life skills, and adult manners post-marriage is not a good idea.
So that’s my ramble…
Wow Wendy, this is perfect! I totally agree with your comments, and I really like your last paragraph about how you’d deal with an 18 year old who thinks they’re ready to get married.
We were young when we got married, I was 23 and Alisa was 22. As I look back on almost 14 years of marriage there have been both highs and lows. I wouldn’t change it for anything though. We have learned so much about ourselves and each other over the years. We’ve grown together as we have aged and it is an amazing time that we are experiencing right now.
The first time we got married it was a contract between us and the state. For our 15th wedding anniversary we are going to renew our vows as a covenant under God. Marriage isn’t about taxes & money it is about sharing ones soul, ones hopes and dreams, and then through the highs and lows making it happen.
Awesome, Tony. I totally agree with the different status that marriage takes when it’s viewed not only as a contract but as a sacred covenant. I don’t think you can assign an age when people are ready to understand and commit to that covenant for life.
Wow- I think Lisa Morosky said it perfectly and so eloquently!
I guess my husband and I fall into the “late marriage” group by technicality- we just got married 3 weeks ago! 😉 He is 32, and I am 26.
However- we have been “married” in every other way (but the legal one) for 8.5 years now. We met when I was 18 and he was 24, and dated long distance for 6 months while I finished HS and he College. Then we moved in together- over 1000 miles away from everything I had known my whole life. We each committed to the other, we were each other’s everything from the start and while it may not work for some, and it was REALLY hard for a few years while he worked and I tried to figure out my school and career goals…. I wouldn’t change a thing. He was my first true relationship, I was his 2nd long-term relationship. While there have been a couple of rough spots in time where I wasn’t sure if I had “lived” enough on my own- I realized that any “living” I have to do in this lifetime, I want to share with him. And he has told me the same thing. They say infatuation wears off, but while Love and our relationship has been a lot of hard work and occasionally I don’t like him…. I am head over heels for my husband! I think part of the issue for some is allowing divorce to be an option. While my husband’s family is still together, I grew up in a divorced home that was miserable and full of hatred, etc. But we both discussed and agreed from the very start- Divorce is not an option once we are married. It is forever. And we treated our relationship before marriage with the same gravity.
As for money- my husband is definitely the more frugal one, unless there is an electronic item/toy he reeeaally wants. haha. I am not a big spender, but I am more willing to spend money on the little life necessities than he is, you know, like non-holey socks and underwear. 😉 I pay the bills and manage the money (which came about by necessity with him traveling out of the country every few weeks for the first few years), but every single major purchase or savings and investment decision is joint and talked about before hand. We have developed our money management styles together, and I think we compliment each other well in most regards.
Anyways- I refer back to Lisa Morosky- her closing was perfect. It depends on the persons involved, in every way!
Thanks so much for sharing your story, NorCal RN. And congratulations on your new marriage! 🙂
I got married younger than I ever thought I would. We were 28 when we got married, which is young for my family. My parents were married in their late 30s (my dad the week before he turned 40), and my grandparents were also married in their 30s which would have been very unusual for the time. We were always brought up with a belief that there was no hurry for things like marriage. They would happen when they would happen and we didn’t have to rush into them. I never ever imagined I’d find someone worth marrying before 30.
My mother in law got married at 19. I’m pretty sure she thought I was defective for not having married someone already. she often says that her other kids probably won’t get married since they’ve left it so late. She told she never understood why my husband didn’t just marry that girl he went out with in high school.
I think about the person i was when I was younger and I can’t imagine ever being mature enough to be married that young, but it also has to do with the fact that I shouldn’t have married any of those people. I think about the person i thought was the love of my life when I was 18 and how differently life would have been if we had married each other.
of course, getting married in my early 20s would have saved me from getting into all sorts of other trouble.
I don’t know if age is really an issue into when you should get married. I think what matters is that its with the right person. Finding someone you have that connection with that you think it could last a life time isn’t an easy thing to achieve for alot of people. If you find that when you are young, you are incredibly blessed.
Thanks for sharing this, Mary. I definitely feel blessed to have found the right person at such a young age. Bethany and I started dating when I was 16 and she was 14 (almost 15)…I’ve been with her for half of her life already!
Happy Baby Moon Dusting!! 🙂
I was 20 when I was married, my husband was 22. It will be 5 years this December, we have 1 boy and another on a young. I think marrying at age 20 is VERY young. I have friends who want to get married at age 20 and I’m like, “you’re so young!!” 🙂 My husband and I are happy. We are committed to each other 100%, no matter what.
As most here, I sit on the married young side of the fence. I was 20, my husband 21. There are so many arguments people give against marrying young… finish college, get a job first, date around, “see the world”… and the list goes on. And for some people those points are completely valid. For others, they’re just not. Personally I find it unfair that many people lump all young adults into one category and assume that none of us are “ready” to get married. I say “ready” because, let’s be honest, no matter what your age no one can ever be 100% prepared for marriage.
Yep, we were young. Paul still had a year of college left (actually we got married and a few days later Paul had his junior year finals to take). We were each other’s only serious relationship and only relationship after high school. But, we’d known each other since we were 11. We dated (well, kinda) in 8th grade and again our senior year of high school. After nearly 10 years we certainly weren’t going into marriage blind… we’d seen the ups and downs already – throughout school and in our relationship. We actually got engaged, broke off the engagement, got engaged again and got married 5 months later. We found where we weren’t ready the first time and worked our way through those issues.
As for the questions posed in the post… I don’t really see how those are questions to ask yourself before marrying young. Those are all questions that should be asked before you get married period, no matter what age. They are basic questions of compatibility. It doesn’t matter how old you are you need to make sure you work out the issues of finances, kids, religion, etc. And as for having “lived enough” – yes, that probably is more common in young adults, but it certainly isn’t specific to that age group. There are plenty of people in their late 20’s/early 30’s and beyond that still have things they want to do or accomplish in life before the settle down.
For me, I wouldn’t have done anything differently. For us, not getting married would been going against God’s calling for our lives. I knew before I even left high school that I was meant to be a wife and mother. There aren’t many people in this world that can say they are doing exactly what they weren’t meant to do in this life and I know I am lucky to be one of them. It’s been just over 5 years now, we have two beautiful children and many wonderful years ahead of us.
Wow Angela, thank you for sharing such a wonderful story! I agree with you that these questions need to be asked before any marriage, regardless of age.
Hi all, I have been soooo busy working for the family lately…hence, the lack of contact with this cool community.
I was 36 and my wife 29 when we got married 15 years ago, we were expecting our first of 6 beeeauuuutiful children just 9 months after the wedding/honeymoon. So what has this got to do with all this, well I was just not ready, call it immaturity of sorts etc. But anyway everyone has to work out things at their own pace…got to admit I did ask my wife on our first date “How many kids she wanted?” – I still laugh when I tell this story to people these days.
Everyone is different, but I think we need to be up front about what we want from the relationship – that way nobody is disappointed. I know my wife isn’t!
Hey Gerry, welcome back to our cool community! 😉
And thanks for another great comment!
My wife and I got married at 21. There were some rough spots but I do not think that in any way shape or form waiting 8 years would have eliminated those rough spots, if anything we would have been more set in our ways and the rough spots would have been rougher. After 15 years of marriage we are closer than we have ever been. No matter what age you get married it takes work and a concerted effort to grow together not apart.
We had our daughter at age 24 which we do not regret either. Our daughter complains that we are the youngest parents in her 7th grade class, I am 37. I will be 43 when my daughter graduates from High School. Our friends are approaching mid-thirties almost forty and starting to have kids. When they have toddlers running around the house we will be empty nesters. There were quite a few years where our friends were traveling and doing all kinds of fun things now the roles will be reversed and we will have more money to do so 🙂
Yeah there were some quite poor years but now we are in a very fun place. In fact I am writing this from the balcony of the bed and breakfast we are staying at for our 15th Anniversary.
Before I started dating my wife my sister gave me some very good advice. “Don’t marry someone you think you can live with, marry the person you can’t imagine the rest of your life without”. It was the best advice I recieved.
I say if you have found the person you want in your life forever go ahead.
Thank you very much for sharing this, Ross. And Happy 15th Anniversary!
I’m writing from the perspective of a person who got married at age 22 and my husband was 25 (we were weeks/months from 23 and 26). Our dating/engagement was just over two years.
I always find the statistics about getting married before 25 interesting. Has anyone ever separated out the groups/demographics in those samples? Is it really about age, or is it about the reasons people choose to get married early. If we separated out those groups, would we find that one group is driving the statistic for the whole age demographic? Certainly there are people who get married young for poor reasons- people who don’t know each other well, who are trying to escape from opression in their parents’ home and rush right into opression with a spouse, people who are pregnant but don’t know each other well, etc. I wonder though, if we looked at other groups- people who prayerfully considered marriage, who had been in longer relationships, who had prepared mentally for the significant challenges that lay ahead if we could consistently see that there are protective factors that allow these individuals to thrive. Perhaps, these “good” and “bad” decisions to get married are accentuated by age- but I think that making up a rule like “don’t get married until you’re 25.5 or something misses the point.
I agree with the author that having criteria to measure whether your ready or not is important, but yet also feel that it’s important to remember that there is development in the 30’s and the 40’s too. If you got married at 29, and then your marriage ended at 39, and you were looking for a new relationship, it would probably be different than your first marriage because you had continued to develop. Waiting until you feel you’re mature enough to handle marriage is important…using your adolescence and even young adulthood to grow and become someone worth marrying is a great idea, but waiting for that magical age to be ready for marriage seems like society is focused on the number and not the goal.
Another way that I think about this is in terms of occupation- at 22 people are deemed ready by society to be accountants, nurses, bankers, ceo’s, etc. and by 25/26 they can be lawyers, doctors, etc. So, we are saying that they have the moral integrity then to handle a lot of responsiblity- makking decisions/recommendations about other people’s money, finances, health and well being, etc. Why then, I wonder, are we unable to pour that level of trust into marriage. I’m sure that there is supervision on the job, and that not everyone who gets married could handle a job with such responsibility, but the point is that age isn’t a great indicator.
Similarly, I think that waiting until all your ducks are in a row- to get married, to have children, etc. is a risky game. I’m all for planning and prudence, yet often see people delaying relationships so that they can indulge other aspects of their lives that won’t ultimatly make them happy. For us, we didn’t have our son until we had been married for 3 years, and at that time were very, very worried that we wouldn’t be able to manage and yet we did. I think this goes along with what other’s have said- no matter what, there will be surprises and aspects that you can’t plan for.
Ultimately, I guess my point is just to consider what those numbers really mean, and how you can grow as a young adult to become ready for marriage.
I completely agree with the numbers thing, Beth. Especially when talking about divorce rates. The author says that the divorce rate for those who got married under 25 is over 50%. I’m sure that is true, but the overall divorce rate is just over 50%, so how is that any different than anyone else?
I totally agree that if you split out different groups of young adults you would see a vast difference in divorce rates. Sometimes people do just get married to young – they weren’t mature enough yet – and most of those probably do end in divorce. But those of us who have prayerfully considered marriage, even at a young age, probably have a much lower divorce rate. But again, the same is true at any age.
This is my first comment. But the Author of the paper on divorce/marriage probability has an online calculator that will tell you your probability of divorce. At me and my husbands income/education/age at marriage (23)/ethnicity, etc, our probability of divorce is less than 5%! So yes, the data is dispersed differently across different demographics. The data is strongly related to education level (Doctoral/Masters) and of course to income. Basically, educated white kids marring young have a much lower probability of divorce than other groups.
Me and my husband married at 23. We had been together for 5 years. We actually went to middle school together – he used to tease me in 6th grade! We’d been living together for 4 years! I honestly can say that whenever people tell me we are too young, I respond that guys this good get snatched off the market early! And I truly believe that! But then…I’m an economist who thinks of marriage as a market and applies market efficiency theory. Everyone has to trade off the marginal costs and benefits of their own decision. I just have to say that I cannot imagine living as full and vibrant – and yes, challenging – a life as the life I live with my man today.
As I get older, I have developed an opinion that most people are never ready for marriage. Marriage requires complete and utter selflessness and a strong ability to empathize with others. I just don’t think that the majority of people have those traits.
Thanks for those insights! It sounds like my wife and I are also statistically destined to stay together. Phew! 😉
My husband and I were married at 23 and 24. Which now seems like forever ago… We dated for 2 years and were engaged for 2 years. Due to a military deployment we were married nearly a year later than we had originally planned! We were ready and knew it was right for us! We are happily enjoying our life with our three children now and love the fact that we started our life together and our family a little on the younger side!! We look at it as more time to enjoy our family!!
Thanks, Jaycie! I’m personally glad you two decided to get hitched. Our Cancun vacations just wouldn’t have been the same with you. 😉
We got married at 20 and 21, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. We’ll celebrate 8 years (and 4 kids!) in just a couple of months, and I always say that I loved that we grew up and discovered life together.
We dated for three years before we got married, and although neither of us lived outside of our parents’ homes before we moved into our own, I was in school and working full time, and he was running a business from home, so we definitely had some real life experience and maturity.
I know my mom got a TON of flack from people for allowing us to get married (uh, we were adults anyway, but that’s another story…), but I’m so thankful they were supportive and didn’t try to stop us! Obviously it’s not right for everyone, but I think getting married young can be a really great thing.
We’ve been through some really difficult things (miscarriages, deaths, serious financial troubles, two cross country moves, etc.), and each time we’ve had to make that decision to love each other. I think that’s the key to a successful marriage — being committed no matter what — not age.
Thanks so much for sharing your story, Mandi! I totally agree with your last sentence, which I feel sums up this issue beautifully.
I definitely fall into the category of getting married later – I was 25, my husband 28. BUT, we tend to take a long time to do anything. Our friends knew we were dating before we did – we kept insisting we were ‘just friends’. Four years after that we got engaged, and 2 years after that we got married. (Most of our engagement and wedding cards say ‘finally!’ in them.) We continue our trend and have been married 6 years with no children in our plans for at least another year.
All this to say – I agree with Mandi – it’s not your age, it’s the commitment level. We made a decision 2 years into our relationship that this was forever, we just waited until we were finished with school to get married. (And yep, we took a little longer to finish school).
Our road hasn’t been an easy one – but it’s one I wouldn’t change for the world, because it got us here.
What words of wisdom! I thought this was a great article that addressed the true issues associated with marriage that young age seems to point to most of the time. Young age at marriage is the highest predictor of divorce but I think its a correlation, not a cause, related to a lack of addressing these main issues, as this article points out. I was 24 (he was 26) when we got married and people acted like that was young! I do think it was important that we had time on our own/off of our parents money and living by ourselves before we got married. Being able to handle your own issues (including marriage issues) instead of running straight to mom and dad is very important.
My husbamd and I were both 20 when we got married. I can’t tell you how many people told us to our faces (many more behind our backs) how stupid we were/it wouldn’t last/we were too young. Now, 12 years and 4 kids later, I’d like to stick my tongue out at them and let out a neener neener.
Everyone thought that my DH and I were crazy to get married at one month shy of 22 and just turned 23. That was 11 1/2 years and 3 kids ago. I don’t regret marrying young one bit. And, seeing most of my friends getting married in their 30’s & having to deal with “baggage”, I actually think there’s an argument to be made for getting married when you’re just starting out in your adult life. A blank slate to write upon together, if you will.
Chiming in late here. Your questions are good ones. I would note that for some folks the answer to number one is yes even at a very young age. Some folks know they want to, even need to be married, and that may mean they are happy to “miss out” on things that early marraige may prevent.
Ultimately age is not the issue, maturity is the issue. I’ve know some 19 year old couples who were more mature than some 30 year old couples. We all tend to mature as we age, but some folks do it a lot faster.
I have also seen folks who seemed to want a couple who married early to fail. It’s wanting your predictions of disaster to come true, and doing nothing to prevent it. Young married couples often have a hard time getting connected in churches and other groups, and that is a stress for any marraige.
Finally, I now live in a small town in Washington state, and young marraige is far from rare here. I go to church with couples who make ten years of marraige before they are 30, and couples celebrating their silver anniversary well under 50. I don’t see the divorce and devastation here I saw with those who married at the same age in Austin Texas. I think the cultural acceptance makes it easier for these couples to make it.
I definitely agree with the questions that Alexis brought up. Most of the people I know still believe that love should be the biggest factor in marrying someone but people should be concerned about their values as well.
My folks got married when they were 20, started a family right away, had a lot of financial problems and their families were really unsupportive. But they shared values and worked together and now, 25 years later, they’re still happily married.
However, I do have a gripe about one of her points. I don’t think that being married will put a stop to your ability to experience new things. Sure, it’ll stop you from dating other people but it doesn’t mean you can’t do fun stuff anymore. It also presents something good; I think my parents were able to sync into each other’s personality because they grew up together and considered the other person with the life-changing decisions they made. It’s a matter of balancing personal growth and your growth with your spouse.
I just discovered your website and will definitely be back! I have been married 14 years, since my husband and I were 22. We’ve been together since we were 18. I hope that marrying young isn’t a thing of the past, because I see a distinct difference in relationship style between my friends who got married in their 20s (interdependent) and those who got married in their 30s (independent).
You don’t know a person as well if you marry late in life. Sure, people change a lot in their twenties and thirties, but marrying young, you change and grow together!
I have two children (we spent plenty of time being “free” and traveling the world together before we had children, so our children are still young), and I would much rather my children marry at 22 than at 32 or at 42.
I married my husband when I was 20 and he was 21. Of my family of four sisters, I was the oldest bride. Three out of four of those marriages are still going strong. My other sister is remarried and has learned so much that I think her new marriage is bound to last.
I think a huge factor in whether a marriage is successful or not is the families. My sister who divorced disliked her inlaws and her husband didn’t like us. They never fully committed to each other. My husband and I have been together since I was 14 and he was 15. He had kissed another girl before me, but that’s the extent of our experience outside of our relationship. His family didn’t take our relationship seriously all during high school. They thought we were too young, so they were constantly trying to break us up. The adversity was exhausting. At our wedding, his father got drunk and tried to convince me not to have children. I think he was worried that we would divorce. We both felt comfortable with what we were getting into, though. Our three children have helped keep us united into an ‘us.’ When I see my husband’s eyes in my son’s face, I love my husband even more. I have learned so much about him as a person by watching how he treats our children. When he is loving toward them, I feel the love is at least partially directed at me. We have shared all of our experiences together and that is completely irreplaceable. I can understand why a lot of people disapprove of young marriage, but I don’t think that all couples are the same. We have been together for so long that my husband is truly a brother to my sisters and a son to my mother. We have reached a level of maturity where we recognize that diborce is literally impossible. By that, I mean that you cannot erase a person out of your life. We have children together, and our families have grown to love us. We have almost reached the point where our years together outnumber the years that came before we met, and neither of us has even reached thirty yet. It sometimes seems crazy, but we are both very happy with our choices. The one thing I will say against having children young is that if you aren’t settled into a career before having children, you may end up having to lose some time with your children in order to support them. We are unusually big on family, though. My mom thinks it’s funny that I feel guilty that I get to see the kids more than he does. That was just the way things were in her generation.