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.