In mainstream culture today, getting married young is practically an anomaly. According to a study based on census data by the Pew Research Center, the average age for adults to get married is now 27 years old for women and 29 years old for men, which is up from 20 and 23 in 1960, respectively. This research study also projected that one quarter of young adults today will never have been married by the time they reach their forties and fifties.
The number of reasons against young marriages ride largely upon the fear that the marriage will fail from the couples’ lack of experience or immaturity. A young marriage is now seen as an unnecessary risk when ways of avoiding the heartbreak of separation or divorce (such as living together aside from marriage or dating long-term without commitment) remain feasible options without any strings attached. Yet, often forgotten are the strings of the heart. In a culture where commitment is a punch-line for comedians, people are longing for marriages that last through the difficult times. It seems almost silly to insist that getting married later (or not at all) is a safer option when the majority of our grandparents and older generations were married very young and their marriages lasted a lifetime. It is not inexperience that breaks a marriage, but a misunderstanding of marriage itself. Those choosing to marry young should be mature enough to understand that a marriage is meant to last forever. However, this should be realized by anyone entering into marriage, regardless of how young or old they are. Avoiding commitment is refusing to love with strings attached. It encourages lack of trust and continues to break down the social structure of marriages that last.
As a young engaged woman, there were specific fears of marriage that seeped from cultural stereotypes and mainstream media into my heart. The biggest fear I felt as a woman was that of losing a part of my life that I could not get back. Commitment to another person meant a loss of my own. Getting engaged at twenty is a threat to the travels, careers, friends, and passions that make a young woman’s twenties exciting. Because of these coveted moments, many people paint an off-putting picture of marriage: The wedding day is beautiful. All the Pinterest boards and hours of walking through Hobby Lobby finally paid off and it is the best day of your life. After that, life goes fast. You’re a wife with either a job or children. You cannot simply do whatever you want, you are now tied down by marriage.
These stereotypes played with my desires. The culture had created a cross-pressure in my mind: marry the love of your life, but you won’t get to do as much as you could have if you stayed single. I won’t say pursuing married life so young was not scary. I knew it meant I was going to give and share my life with my fiancé, and with that there would be many sacrifices. While it was intimidating, it became easy to say yes. In my heart I knew I was gaining so much more than I was losing. Socially and economically it made sense. There would now be two forms of income: rent would be split, groceries would be shared, and any financial challenges would be handled with a partner. I would still attend school, which is one of my biggest passions. I would live in a city that I love, finish my degree, and come home to the love of my life. Emotionally it made sense. He supports all of my ambitions, often times more than I do, and is there for every success and difficulty in my life. Above all, however, I know he is committed to our marriage and desires a marriage that lasts as much as I do. Marriage is as hard as any other relationship in life that I have encountered. It takes some work, but it is also strengthened because of it.
Rather than feeling like I sacrificed the best years of my life to marry, I ended up beginning those years with the one I love most. I still plan to travel, aim for the careers I want, and pursue my passions with a committed husband by my side. Every day since the wedding has been an adventure, even the most ordinary ones. Marriage has helped me to understand more fully that commitment is not up to the stereotype that the culture creates or the standard shaped by people who have failed in the past. Rather, it is up to the woman and man who embrace a life with heart strings permanently attached to one another. In this time of uncommitted relationships, dedicated young couples may be exactly what our society needs to revitalize a respect for commitment and learn that marriage, regardless of age, was built to last.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I have a hard time asking for help. I’ve somehow developed a subconscious personal policy to minimize how much I allow others to contribute to my daily needs. I guess I figure since I’m blessed enough to be able to stay home with my children,