Thoughts on Getting Married Young

I have often thought about how drastically the process of getting married has changed from when my grandparents were young. For one thing, the time between boy-and-girl-meet and boy-and-girl-marry was much shorter than it is today. Back then, it was relatively common for a courtship to last only a few months. Now it seems commonplace for couples to be engaged for years on end. Many people would say that delaying marriage is a good thing, but I am convinced otherwise.


I recently read a thought-provoking article from The Atlantic called “The Case for Getting Married Young” by Karen Swallow Prior. In it, she details how the modern trend of delaying marriage may not be as optimal for marital health and satisfaction as some might think. She argues that “it can be beneficial to make marriage the cornerstone, rather than the capstone, of your adult life.” I won’t rehash her article here — please take some time to read it for yourself — but it did make me think about how much marriage has changed in two generations, and it made me wonder how it may change even further for Harrison’s generation.

Heidi and I met and began dating in college when I was a sophomore and she was a freshman. We dated for two years and were engaged for one. At the time, I remember so many older adults warning us about the pitfalls of getting married too young. “You’re still so young,” they would say “You don’t need to rush into marriage.” While I looked at our three years together as plenty of time to make a sound decision on marriage, others seemed to think that was not nearly enough time.

Apparently, that pressure to wait is becoming even more pervasive in society. According the Pryor’s article, today’s average age for a first marriage is 29 for men and 27 for women. Compare that to my grandparents’ generation, and no one can deny a seismic shift has occurred in the marriage culture. People often say that getting married young is a recipe for divorce, but the divorce rate has increased right along with the pendulum swing away from young marriage. To me, that is an indication that postponing marriage is more a recipe for divorce and unhappiness (as Pryor’s article also suggests).

From a religious standpoint, this first-marriage statistic is especially problematic. Though it has largely become prudish and old-fashioned for modern society, I still believe in the biblical value of waiting until marriage before having sex. But with puberty arriving sooner than ever and people getting married later in life, the window for abstinence seems impossibly wide. Think about it, my son will likely hit puberty at 13 or 14; if he waits until 29 to get married, he will have to fight the tide of raging testosterone for 15 or 16 years. That is brutal, and it’s a battle that few young men can win.

Now I know some of you might think, “Is this guy saying men should marry young just to alleviate their sex drive and avoid angering their God with pre-marital sex?” I’m not saying that. The physical urge is definitely an undeniable part of the draw, but I think that adult drive can also coincide with other adult drives, like caring for a family, starting a career, etc. Our society seems to love infantalizing young adults in all areas except for sexual behavior. Young adults are capable of being mature, and getting married matures you quickly.

To me, young marriage makes for more mature young adults, and I want that for my son.

What are your thoughts about getting married young? Good idea or bad advice?

I thought that sexual purity was hard for me to keep, but for you it’s going to be doubly hard. Be strong. Don’t go into marriage blindly, but don’t be afraid of it either. Mom and I had some tough times as young newlyweds — we had almost no money at all for the first few years. Looking back, though, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

  • Mary @ A Teachable Mom

    Interesting piece and perspective. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience. I believe it really depends on the person. I wasn’t ready to be married at an early age and needed to work through some issues before I was ready to show up for a relationship in an honest and open way. I hope our daughters don’t have quite as many issues to work through but hope they are aware and accepting of their strengths and limitations before they choose their mates, no matter what age they are. Great post!

    • Michael Gray

      Thanks for the comment, Mary. Working through issues is definitely an important thing before entering marriage. However, I get the feeling that many twenty-somethings feel like they need *all* their ducks in a row before taking the plunge. My wife and I went through a pretty in-depth premarital counseling, which helped us work through (or begin working through) some common issues.

      On that note, I wonder what percentage of modern-day newlyweds even get premarital counseling. That would be an interesting study.

  • Newlyyoung

    I would have loved to get married younger. J and I married at precisely those average ages of 27 and 29, because that’s just when the Lord brought us together. Our engagement was a very short 5 months— When we were ready, we were ready! I appreciate your premise, however. It is very true. If you are blessed to meet the right person young, then get married. Choose wisely, however…

    • Michael Gray

      I guess I should have qualified my position a bit better. I’m talking more about when people delay marriage, but still get into long-term relationships. The modern tendency of couples to live together is an example of the sort of people I’m talking about.

  • Julie

    Dave and I were married at 21 and 20. A lot of people thought that was young and we should finish school and get everything figured out first. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. We had known each other since we were 13 and we dated for 1 year and 1 week before we were married. Dave had made a promise that he would not marry someone until he had dated them for at least 1 year! Were we ready for marriage – probably not. Is anyone ever ready for marriage – probably not. There are too many things that you can’t anticipate. You learn together, you grow together. You fight together and figure out how to compromise or make it work. Marriage is a lifetime process. What marriage does need is commitment. I think that is what we have lost today. It’s too easy to just walk away from something you don’t like. Instead of working at making it better, people just give up and try to find someone else that will make them “happy.” I think there is an advantage to getting married young. You normally aren’t as set in your ways and are more adaptable to change. I think you have a tendency to spend more time together instead of spending it off with your friends. A lot of times that has to do with money. There’s no money to go do stuff all the time. When you are older, you are more likely to already be established in your career and have more money. I’m sure there are people who aren’t ready to get married at a young age, but I think the main reason people wait till they are older is selfishness. They want to have their fun, careers, money whatever it is, instead of putting a life together with someone else.

    • Michael Gray

      Great points, Julie. You are right about working through issues together. Too many people feel like they have to be in just the right place before they can get married, as if marriage is *supposed* to be a perfect, hassle-free experience.

      And the no-money thing? Also spot-on. :)