Growing up, I didn’t put much thought into not getting married. I just figured I would graduate from college, move someplace interesting, meet a great guy, and get married. I figured that by the time I turned 30 I would be making decisions with a husband and maybe a child or two in the picture.
But that wasn’t God’s script for my life. Instead, I spent most of my 20s single and didn’t meet the man I would marry until I was 31. I’ll be 32 when we tie the knot. Though my assumptions about when I would marry and the timeline for my life were delayed, all is not lost! As I’ve been preparing for marriage as a 30-something, I can see that there are benefits to marrying later than planned.
But before I go there, I am not saying that it’s better to marry later in life. Rather, just as there are advantages and disadvantages to marrying at 22, there are advantages and disadvantages at 32. So in the interest in encouraging our readers who, like me, saw their 20s pass them by without any prospects, let me say that these are a few of the benefits I’ve experienced.
1. Strong sense of who you are.
You’ve had lots of time for introspection and have a good idea of who you are. That’s not to say a recent college grad might not also know herself in-depth, but if you used your single years to learn and grow as a person, then most likely you have a pretty good sense of who you are. You’ve worked long enough to know your career strengths and what type of manager or boss you might aspire to be like someday. You’ve probably experienced different seasons of friendships and have learned what kind of friend you want to be. You’ve probably had time to adjust to the changing family dynamics as you go from parent-child to more of an adult friendship. Your 20s bring a lot of firsts and new experiences as you figure out the whole “being an adult thing.” I’ve found that your 30s brings a new kind of confidence and assurance based on all that you’ve learned throughout your 20s.
2. Better idea of what a relationship that leads to marriage looks like.
Knowing yourself well leads to having a good sense of what you’re looking for in a relationship. In my 20s, I dated lots of different types of guys, and it gave me a good sense of what personality types I was most compatible with and what type of character traits were the most important. I learned from relationship trial and error, essentially.
When I met Tyler, my fiancée, he seemed different from other guys, and I recognized early on that there was something different about him. We connected in a way I hadn’t experienced in past relationships. Because I had experience with what didn’t work and why certain relationships didn’t lead to marriage, I was in a better position to recognize the right one when he came along.
3. Wisdom from observing friends’ marriages.
When you’re the last one in your group of friends to marry, as I was on several different occasions, you have the opportunity to study your friends’ marriages. It’s great to have marriage mentors and people who are a few decades ahead of you, but it’s also helpful to have people your age who have experienced the first few years of marriage. And at 32, the majority of my friends are in the newborn and toddler parenting season, so I’ve been able to observe how to prioritize a marriage with the addition of kids.
I have a handful of close friends who have been honest with the awesome, amazing parts of marriage, but also with the hard parts and the times of struggle. I’ve taken that advice to heart and have found it helpful as I prepare for my own marriage. I’ve also seen a few of my friends go through divorces, and there is something of value to learn in that situation as well. Use your single years to ask your friends about what they’ve learned and if they would do anything differently looking back on their newlywed years.
4. Gratitude enhanced by the waiting.
Because I was single longer than I thought I would be, I had lots of experience living as a single in a world designed for couples. I know what it’s like to go to wedding after wedding without a plus one. I know what it’s like to be the only one still single at family holidays or to get lumped in with the 21-year-old intern at work because my boss thinks I’m more like her simply because I’m not married with kids. I am deeply familiar with the pain of loneliness and the shame that comes from feeling like I didn’t fit in at church.
Since getting engaged, I am struck daily with how much of a blessing Tyler is, and I have a profound sense of gratitude for this man whom God intentionally and miraculously brought into my life. I know it was nothing of my own doing (believe me, I’ve tried it all), but that God in His sovereignty has provided a spouse who is the answer to my prayers. Getting married later in life doesn’t mean you are more grateful than someone who married at a young age. But there is profound sense of gratitude made all the sweeter for the years of waiting and wondering if or when it was going to happen.
If you married in your 30s, what benefits have you seen? What has surprised you?