Too Young to Marry?

Or is today’s society getting something wrong?

Within the year following my college graduation 50 years ago, every person in my circle of friends was married. I alone stayed single...all the way until the month before I turned 25. Perhaps this helps to explain why my generation has a hard time making sense of our modern culture. 

In his recent essay in Deseret News, “The Surprising Case For Marrying Young,” Brad Wilcox brings a welcome dose of reason to this issue. Using the example of a New York couple, Joey and Samantha Paris, he describes three ways in which the assumptions of their peers were drastically out of step with their decision to marry at the young age of 24:

  1. They were missing out on fun. The common perception of their generation is that one’s twenties is the designated decade for experiencing freedom and adventure. Yet only in our strange world of excess has the category of “fun” become an expected component of normal adult life. In most other worlds, people have been grateful when they could experience the basic joys of companionship, fruitfulness, and tranquility.

  1. Women need to establish their careers. Apparently, Samantha broke the rules for how a woman is to “actualize” herself. In the modern view, Wilcox says, “marriage is supposed to be a capstone to a successful life, signaling you have arrived professionally and personally as an individual.” Gone is the understanding of how foundational family relationships are for the rich beauty of femininity to flourish.

  1. Later marriage reduces the risk of divorce. This actually may have some validity, but if so, one might argue that it is the outworking of assumption number one. If young people aren’t prepared for marriage in their 20s, it may well be because no one ever told them they needed to be. Yet as Wilcox points out, it is very possible for people to be sufficiently mature long before they reach 30.

He writes:

Based on  new research Lyman Stone and I conducted for the Institute for Family Studies, Joey and Samantha’s faith in their family future seems merited. Our analyses indicate that religious men and women who married in their twenties without cohabiting first—a pattern which describes Joey and Samantha’s path to the altar to a “T”—have the lowest odds of divorce in America today.

Wilcox maintains that the pervasive social option of cohabitation is one of the most significant deterrents to lasting marital commitment:

Many young adults today believe cohabitation is also a pillar of successful marriages, one reason why more than 70% of those who marry today live together before marriage. But the conventional wisdom here is wrong: Americans who cohabit before marriage are less likely to be happily married and more likely to break up.

As psychologist Galena Rhoades notes, “We generally think that having more experience is better. But what we find for relationships is just the opposite.” When a person has had multiple cohabiting partners before marriage, it becomes easy to draw comparisons that are unfavorable for their eventual spouse. Merged with what’s been termed the “revolving door approach” to intimate relationships, it’s easy to see why cohabitation is inherently a bad foundation for marriage.

Overall, however, Wilcox acknowledges that a primary reason why Joey and Samantha will likely find their marriage to be both satisfying and enduring is because they, along with other religious couples like them, were “endowing [their] relationship with sacred significance.” I might add that this realization—that marriage is intended to integrally connect us with that which is transcendent—goes a long way toward explaining why our enemy seeks to discourage it in every way imaginable.

Scripture clearly states that “for this reason,” God created us male and female (Matthew 19:4-5). So, while it would be unreasonable in our day to assume that everyone in their 20s is fully ready for marriage, I believe the church would do well to be far more intentional, not only in encouraging young people to seek marriage, but also in explicitly preparing them for it.

Further Reading

is a homemaker who lives near Centerville, Tennessee. Her website is www.bereansnotepad.com.

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