What is the optimal age for marriage? 18 – 22 – 25 – 30 – Later – Never?
Our first day at college, my roommate introduced her 18-year-old friend along with her two babies. She had married at 15 – a common practice in her hometown. Was that too young?
What people say to marrying teenagers
– Are you pregnant?
– Is this one of those religious things?
– Shouldn’t you test the waters before you settle down?
– Are you a virgin in a rush to have sex?
– Are you rebelling against your parents?
Benefits of marrying early
– Have more sex
– Have higher fertility rates and healthier pregnancies
– Have more energy for parenthood
– Have greater earnings capacity (men) and build more wealth
– Become young empty-nesters and young grandparents
Trends in millennial relationships
Millennials today are more likely to:
1. Wait later (until their 30’s) to get married
2. Cohabit (“test drive”) before marriage
3. Cohabit with no desire to marry
4. Have babies and then get married (maybe… if it works out).
This last trend is disconcerting because children born outside of marriage “are much more likely to experience family instability, school failure and emotional problems. In fact, children born to cohabiting couples are three times more likely to see their parents break up, compared to children born to married parents,” according to “Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America.”
Another interesting phenomenon is the difference between married and unmarried twentysomethings. Unmarrieds in their twenties “are significantly more likely to drink to excess, be depressed and report lower levels of satisfaction with their lives” than their married counterparts, according to “Knot Yet.”
When should you get married?
Unfortunately, there’s no formula. It’s not about numbers but rather relational maturity. Dr. Scott Stanley of the University of Denver has studied marriage for over thirty years. In his “Sliding vs. Deciding” blog, he suggests couples follow these guidelines before marrying:
1. Take it slow. Get to know a person very well before deciding to marry.
2. Pay attention to major red flags. If you see evidence of controlling or abusive behavior, or serious substance use problems, don’t move blindly ahead hoping things will work out.
3. Look for someone who shares your beliefs and values.
4. Look for mutual dedication. There should be sustained evidence that you and a prospective mate are equally devoted to the relationship.
5. Don’t let constraints for staying together increase before you establish mutual commitment to be together. Many people slide into situations that make it harder to end a relationship before they have made a clear decision about what is best.
6. Do premarital training.
7. Be realistic about potential mates.
“What I Gave Up the Day I Got Married”
That’s the title of a blog by Natasha Craig who married as a teenager. She lists seven things she gave up and would give up again “in a heartbeat”: her heart, privacy, name, secrets, agenda, dating others, and awkward dinner conversations. She went on to say,“If anything, I wish I had [begun] this incredible journey called marriage sooner, because nothing I have ever done, or could ever do, has filled me with as much love, happiness and peace as this… I am challenged every day to be a better more selfless person than I am, but my life has taken on more meaning than I knew it could and I have become more complete than I thought was possible.”
In the movie, “Shall We Dance” (2004), the main character’s wife, Beverly Clark, eloquently captures the beauty of a life and history built together.
We need a witness to our lives. There’re a billion people on the planet… I mean what does anyone’s life really mean? But in marriage, you’re promising to care about everything – the good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things – all of it, all the time, every day. You’re saying, “Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go unwitnessed because I will be your witness.”
“A Capstone Instead of a Cornerstone”
“Knot Yet” determined that there was a cultural shift in the way young adults view marriage. They see marriage as “something they do after they have all their other ducks in a row [capstone], rather than a foundation for launching into adulthood and parenthood [cornerstone].”
Did God breathe life into you so that you could pursue happiness and self-actualization or so you could be top in your field or earn six figures before 30?
Does He want you to fully experience singleness by playing or partying before settling down?
God doesn’t give a formula either, but His word does say, “God created human beings in his own image … male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, ‘Be fruitful and multiply”’ (Genesis 1:27-28). “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him’” (Genesis 2:18). Marriage is the cornerstone on which we build lives with a view to God’s purpose for our lives.
As Natasha pointed out in her blog, marriage takes sacrifice but brings such joy. Perhaps if Jesus had blogged, He would have written “What I Gave up the Day I Hung on the Cross.”
“Only one life, ‘twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” – C.T. Studd
Patricia Hartman is a CPA/partner at Kofsky, Hartman & Weinger, PA. www.khwcpa.com, author of “The Christian Prenuptial Agreement” available at www.ChristianPrenuptial.com, president of South Florida Word Weavers and board member Living Water Christian Counseling.