Is there a perfect age to marry? Does waiting until your late twenties or thirties give you greater maturity and a stronger financial foundation? Does marrying at a younger age give you a better shot at having prime energy for the parenting years and avoiding sexual sin?
The Washington Times ran an article last week called “Knot Now, Americans Say” [no longer available online] that holds up some of the benefits of marrying young to those who may have a bias to wait until a later age. And I think it’s true there is a bias. People who follow my parents’ model and get married at 19 and 20 are often looked down on as impetuous. When my sister-in-law got married right out of college, several of her friends criticized her rush to matrimony.
Often this concern is legitimate because of research that shows the greater likelihood of divorce among those who marry in their teens and early twenties. Some well intentioned parents, youth leaders and counselors, however, have given young men and women the impression that every year they wait improves their chances of a strong marriage. The Times article above points to a study by Norval Glenn at the University of Texas that found people who married between 23 and 27 reporting greater satisfaction with their marriages than those who married before and after them. Apparently, there are tradeoffs for delay — such as greater potential for sexual baggage and a tougher transition for two independent adults into an interdependent relationship.
At the end of the day, advice about prime marrying ages shouldn’t be perceived as a message of doom and gloom for those who are already past a certain age or undue pressure for someone to go out and marry just anyone. The primary benefit of knowing the pros and cons of certain marrying ages is when it comes to making a decision about a relationship you’re currently in or when it comes to someone intentionally turning down relationship opportunities that come their way because of a bias toward a year that is still down the road.
Often the best answer to the question, “When should I get married?” is “as soon as you are prepared to accept the responsibility of a lifelong commitment to someone you love.”