A few weeks ago, we posted an article on our Facebook page titled, “Wait to Date Until You Can Marry.” We received quite a passionate response from our readers. Here’s what a few of you had to say:
“There are some things only marriage will prepare you for. There’s no way to be completely mature before you decide to date/court/marry.” —Jubilee
“I really think we put too much emphasis on being “ready.” For centuries people married in their teens and did marriage better than us.” —Maya
“By the time most of us have sufficiently matured, we are no longer of childbearing age. Life is a journey and maturity is gained in the struggles and mistakes along the way.” —Terry
Before jumping to conclusions, I think it’s valuable to consider what the author, Marshall Segal, is actually trying to say in this article. In his own words:
We all want our hearts to soar for someone or something. The romance and mystery of marriage seems to hold the highest earthly peaks of pleasure and friendship. We long to be known and loved, to belong with someone, in someone else’s story. We also want someone to join us in ours.
Many of us date because we’re trying to fill those needs in love. If you asked us, we might say we’re ‘pursuing marriage,’ but a lot of us aren’t even close to marriage — in age, finances, maturity, education, stage of life. We’re really in pursuit of the happiness, belonging, and significance we think we’ll find in romance.
Segal seems to be talking primarily to teenagers or those in their very early twenties; he even references his own directionless relationships at 13, 14 and 18. I think his message is a good one for young people who truly are not in a position to marry.
Even when I was 18, although I was physically and legally ready for marriage, I wasn’t emotionally ready. If I had a steady boyfriend at that time, we likely would’ve been in the relationship for fun and self-gratification, opening up unnecessary temptations and distractions.
That said, I agree with our readers that there comes a point where “not being ready” for marriage can become an excuse for delaying it indefinitely. I wrote about this in “Set … Ready, Go!”:
While financial security is certainly a consideration [going into marriage], the 20-something generation seems to have developed an unrealistic ideal of readiness. Their “quality of life” standard includes a nice house, two cars, cable TV, Internet and plentiful disposable income for movies, eating out, lattes and the latest “toys.”
These unrealistic expectations of “readiness” lead some young adults who desire marriage to wait much longer than is necessary (and healthy) to engage in it. From my observations some of the ones who get caught in this trap are actually ready to be husbands and fathers and wives and mothers much sooner than they are ready to “support a family” by those overblown standards.
So while Segal’s advice on evaluating one’s readiness for marriage before dating is helpful to consider, especially for teens, for the most part young adults are more ready for the companionship, responsibilities and joys of marriage than they think. I know from experience that getting married shows you how ill-prepared you were in more areas than you thought, but part of the fun is learning and growing together.