In speaking with another mom at soccer today about being "ahead" of friends in terms of marriage and kids and then seeing on Facebook that a cousin of mine who is 21 is engaged, marrying young has been on my mind. Mark Regnerus wrote this article in 2009 in defense of marrying young. Mostly, I like where he's coming from.
"Marriages that begin at age 20, 21 or 22 are not nearly so likely to end in divorce as many presume." Right, go on... "The age at which a person marries never actually causes a divorce. Rather, a young age at marriage can be an indicator of an underlying immaturity and impatience with marital challenges -- the kind that many of us eventually figure out how to avoid or to solve without parting." Maybe. But, more likely a young marriage can be an indicator of an underlying MATurity and the ability to know what one wants and needs. I love this next part.
"Marriage actually works best as a formative institution, not an institution you enter once you think you're fully formed. We learn marriage, just as we learn language, and to the teachable, some lessons just come easier earlier in life. "Cursed be the social wants that sin against the strength of youth," added Tennyson to his lines about springtime and love." You know the saying about the old dog and tricks. This is exactly the point... we learn better in youth. When I was engaged a friend told me her fear was that we'd grow apart since we were still forming ourselves. My reaction was that was the most ridiculous idea, but my response was simply that we'd grow together because we'd be together. Okay, here's where Regnerus veers off.
"There is wisdom in having an age gap between spouses. For women, age is (unfortunately) a debit, decreasing fertility. For men, age can be a credit, increasing their access to resources and improving their maturity, thus making them more attractive to women. We may all dislike this scenario, but we can't will it away." Regnerus says the average age a man marries is 28. He has no problem with that. It's women who wait until 28 he has a beef with. He'd rather see a twenty year old woman get married to that 28 year old man? He doesn't like that the average age difference between spouses is now less than 2 years. Well, guess what Regnerus. It's not women who have the problem in this scenario, it's the men who want to sow their oats. Same as it's always been. Why should a young woman have to marry someone who has been with way more people than she? That's nowhere near fair. Not that I want everyone to sleep around willy nilly before tying the not. No, I think partners should have many similarities and sex lives prior to marriage should be one of them. A 20 year old woman who has had maybe a couple or more partners is not a great match for a 28 year old man who has had a dozen or more.
But then Regnerus redeems himself.
"Say what you will about the benefits of cohabitation, it's a categorically less stable arrangement, far more prone to division than marriage." It's true. It's easier to leave when you have no further paper work to worry about. But also, the planning, preparation and commitment of having a wedding strengthens the bond between two people and makes for a more safe and secure partnership.
In the end Regnerus tells about a 23 year old woman who decided to get married though her friends, who became bridesmaids, initially balked. Those are the state of things. Getting married young is socially rebellious and I can't deny that I liked that aspect of it when I married at age 20. I was ready to "prove them all wrong!" Now, though, I think the stronger reason I wanted to get married was to be happy. I loved Will and I wanted to be with him. I wanted to see who we would turn out to be together. It's not been easy and it's not been a smooth ride. What would be the fun if it were? It has been life changing and I wouldn't want to change anything.