If you’re in your twenties or thirties, there’s a good chance you’ve grown up thinking that marriage is something that you’re supposed to hold off on. There’s a sequential order, or so many have been told, that starts with securing a good education, then progresses to obtaining a lucrative career.
Only once you’ve reached a point where your job is stable and your bank account is brimming with zeroes should you even consider taking someone’s hand in marriage or start deciding on elaborate wedding themes and selecting colors and bridesmaids’ dresses, right?
Evidence seems to bear this hypothesis out. According to The Atlantic, recent years have shown that “Americans are getting married later and later,” and that college-educated women “who marry later make more money per year than women who marry young.” The results of the survey they cite show the difference in incomes to be rather substantial:
“The average annual personal income for college-educated women in their mid-30s who married after age 30 is 50,415, compared with 32,263 for college-educated women of the same age who married before age 20–a 56 percent difference.”
A more recent article from Time claims that “people should get married between the ages of 28 and 32 if they don’t want to get divorced, at least in the first five years.” They refer to a study from the Institute For Family Studies, concluding:
“Having money and a college degree reduces your chances of getting divorced, as does getting engaged before moving in together and waiting to have kids until after the nuptials.”
With facts like these it’s none too difficult to reason that that waiting until you’re established and well off is the ideal scenario. There’s a flip side to this coin, however, and a strong case to be made that marrying younger is a better decision than you might believe.
A Note About The Study
While it’s true that the IFS study indicated that “the odds of divorce decline as you age from your teenage years through your late twenties and early thirties,” it also showed that “the chances of divorce go up again as you move into your late thirties and early forties.” They explicitly state that this is a clear shift from the days of old:
“This is a marked departure from the way things used to be, when the relationship was relatively linear: the older you are when you first marry, the lower the odds of divorce. Period.”
In other words, waiting too long could also adversely affect your chances of having a happy marriage. So, while waiting until you’re well to do might seem like a the best option, the subject isn’t nearly as cut and dried as it might seem on just a cursory examination of the facts.
Marrying in your late 20s or early 30s is a safe bet, then. But what about marrying in your early 20s, or even before going to college? While data suggests this might not be the best move, there are a few counterpoints you might want to keep in mind before you excise the idea from your mind completely.
A Case For Marrying Younger
Both Pop Sugar and The Huffington Post provide interesting lists of benefits for marrying younger. Though based on only a handful of personal experiences, the lists provide some insight on some of the reasons that marriage in your early 20s could be more appealing.
For example, the Pop Sugar article notes three things that are of particular importance:
- You grow up together.
- You’re used to making someone else your first priority.
- You and your spouse are not set in your ways quite yet.
When waiting to marry, you develop a rather distinct way of doing things, one that might not place that high a value on making a partner happy. While not universally true, the phrase “set in one’s ways” becomes more applicable to an individual as time passes on.
If you’re used to flying solo, the set of behaviors that has forged you into the kind of person that gets by fine with no mate may well keep you as such. Furthermore, attempting to forge connections with other older singles who harbor many of the same attitudes could pose more of a challenge than attempting to do so when you’re younger and more open to compromising within a relationship.
Contrast this with meeting and marrying someone when you’re much younger. You are likely more apt to ditch “selfish” behaviors if it means forming a closer bond with the one you love. You have both the time and inclination to support your partner as you face all-new challenges side by side, and you’re both learning, which means you aren’t as likely to be dead set on things being “your way or the highway.”
Obviously, there are reasons why the opposite would be appealing as well. Another article, also courtesy of Pop Sugar, maintains that waiting provides time to become who you are, get a clear sense of what you want from a relationship, and provides a greater appreciation of coupled life after you’ve spent your 20s living it up and partying to your heart’s content. Even the authors of such counterclaims to younger marriage concede, though, that “there are obviously circumstances where it simply makes sense” to marry at a younger age.
Moving on to The Huffington Post article, we can see several refutations to the idea that waiting for marriage is more advantageous. For instance:
- There’s less baggage.
- It’s relatively easy to combine lives.
- Expectations are lower.
The argument here is clear. When you’re older and trying to form a bond, you don’t just have your own personal issues to deal with (that may well impact your ability to maintain a healthy relationship), you might also have an unreasonable image built up of what you view as the “perfect marriage scenario.”
In many cases, despite all of our planning, this perfect scenario never comes to fruition, and you may indeed decide to abandon what might be a good match because it doesn’t fit your preconceptions of “ideal.”
Beyond that, when you’ve got a full life that you’re maintaining, it becomes increasingly difficult to make time for someone else, let alone mesh your entire life with someone else who may be equally busy. Without the ability to put time and effort into a relationship, how will your chances for success fare?
Again, compare that to marrying younger, when you don’t have any wild notions about how the perfect relationship should play out, or who “the one” should be in terms of looks, status, personality, etc. With relatively fewer responsibilities, it’s easier to join together with a romantic partner, and you’ll likely save yourself from repeated disappointment. Furthermore, you’ll have had fewer negative experiences from past “bad relationships,” leaving you more open to forming a deeper connection with someone you plan on spending the rest of your life with.
In addition to all this, the article also brings up another interesting factor that may sway the budget conscious. By marrying younger, you’re much more likely to save on the cost of a wedding, since at such a tender age, the chances are you don’t have much in the way of funds to begin with. A pared down but still stylish wedding done earlier on opens the door for saving that money down the line to spend on building a happy life together.
While it may be cliché to proclaim “think about the children,” consider this article from The Atlantic. In it, they cite that “the average age at which a woman first gives birth (25.7) is now earlier than the average age of first marriage (26.5),” adding readers to consider “all of the well-documented concerns that surround the rearing of children outside of wedlock.”
A fair point. If you’re the type that wants kids, and wants kids sooner rather than later, then marrying younger might indeed be the better option. Providing children with a stable family situation affords them the best chance of growing into happy, productive adults, and children born of broken families, while not universally doomed to a poorer existence, are more likely to experience adverse effects.
A final note, also summed up quite perfectly by The Atlantic, is the fact that marriage breeds satisfaction:
“Unmarried twenty-somethings are more likely to be depressed, drink excessively, and report lower levels of satisfaction than their married counterparts. For example 35 percent of unmarried men say they are “highly satisfied” with their lives compared to 52 percent of married men; among the women that report being “highly satisfied” with their lives, 29 percent are cohabitating, 33 percent are single, and 47 percent are married.”
So, if you want a better shot at feeling fulfilled, perhaps considering the perks of a younger marriage isn’t such a bad idea after all?
It’s Still Your Choice
None of this is to say that couples must marry when they are young. For most, the opportune will reveal itself in due course. The idea that marrying young is something passé or to be avoided at all costs, though, is one that doesn’t apply across the board, and if you feel that the benefits outweigh the risks in your scenario, then by all means, go for it.