Getting Married Later is Better

We are getting married later and later. My wife, Kathryn, and I are part of this trend–I was 24 when we got married; she was almost 26. There are a lot of good reasons to get married sooner rather than later (celibacy abatement being high on the list), yet I have had some recent experiences that remind me of a belief that later is best.

I am part of business that will be building a large manufacturing plant in the not too distant future.  We are working with the local mucky-mucks, one of which has become one of my favorite people in the area. He is the president of the bank in town; a good Catholic gentleman. In a former endeavor he worked at a bank in Salt Lake City.

Over dinner one night, he explained how he was in the branch office and a beautiful woman walked in with two children. She was in her very early twenties and was divorced. He explained how she proceeded to hit on him in front of her two children during their meeting together. I couldn’t help but be embarrassed. “Yep, that no premarital sex thing sometimes gets people married for the wrong reasons. (wink)” And I hope he has another drink–quickly.

This week, I was at the home of my business associate (I tend to call him my partner, but that connotes something else here). His daughter who just finished her junior year in high school mentioned that she needed to go to the wedding of her friend this weekend.

You’re friend, how old is she?”

“Eighteen,” she replies.

“She’s not Mormon, is she?”

“Why, yes. How did you know?” And I want to tell her to run, now, and tell her friend to call it all off. It got even worse, though. She had just converted to marry her fiance who is 24. That’s got to be statutory or something.

The Bishop of my adolescence got married at 17 and served two tours in Vietnam. A fabulous couple. I’m sure his parents thought he was too young to get married. It should consequently be no surprise that we should say the same thing. I submit, however, that things are not the same. Freshmen in college have zero
comprehension of the world or life. Parents pay for everything. Kids rarely work, at least in this area. They simply have no responsibility.

I know that the Church will likely never council the youth to wait to get married. There are definite costs, biology being one. However, Utah Valley might be a healthier place if they did.

Comments

  1. a random John says:

    Quick! Someone have Frank break out the statistics on divorce and age at which you marry!

  2. quinn mccoy says:

    you make a good point, however, you only mention 2 problems with early marriages: divorce and lack of world knowlegde. i dont think that that is solid evidence since plenty of people that get married later on in life get divorced. also, even when people are older that doesnt mean that theyre gonna have any more world experience. i did get married at 25 and my wife at 27, so i am for it.

  3. The definitions of “early” and “late” in marriage vary by cultural context, of course. When my wife and I got married, we were both 23. In Utah, that would probably have counted as marrying reasonably late (!). In the San Francisco area where we live, however, (non-Mormon) people acted as if we were far too young to even consider being married. We were even told that we should really just live together for a while, maybe a decade, first and make sure we’re right for each other!

  4. My father is a psychologist/marriage therapist in UT, and, according to his experience, the biggest indicator of future divorce for LDS couples is not necessarily age, but how long the couple has known each other before they marry. His favorite bit of advice: “I don’t care if an angel tells you that you’re supposed to marry him/her, if you haven’t known your fiance for at least 6 months before marriage, wait until you have–it will only make your marriage better.”

    Again, that is just his professional experience. I know that there are plenty of people out there who married after only knowing each other 6 weeks and still have great marriages. Heck, even a lot of people with arranged marriages end up with great marriages.

    But seeing all these LDS couples with marital problems, day in and day out (for about 20 years now), he just feels that the longer you can possibly wait before getting married, so that you learn about all the “nasty little surprises” before you’re eternally wed, the better off you are. He maintains that all people, no matter who they are, have “nasty little surprises” about their pasts, personalities, extended families, etc., and it’s a whole lot less painful to find out about those things before you get married than after. And the only way to find out those things is to give it some time, say, like, at least 6 months!

  5. I was just thinking about how ridiculous my father’s little “6 month rule” would seem to anyone who wasn’t LDS. Six months really isn’t a lot of time, in the eyes of the world. Yet he has come under attack many times within LDS circles for promoting such “lengthy” engagements.

  6. My husband and I got married after dating for 6 months. I was 18 and he was 19. We’ve been married 16 years and still going strong.

    I look at kids that age now though and can’t believe we did that. What were we thinking?

  7. John Mansfield says:

    There is an interesting graph here showing how marriage ages took off after legalization of abortion. There is also a Brookings Institution brief with a table connecting abortion with the demise of the shotgun wedding. Its a very sad story, so many lives and relationships between lovers and their children that would have been at least a bit better. Less than ideal marriages still do a lot of good for the people in them and the community.

    To the degree that the saints have kept themselves aloof from national changes in nonmarital sex and the option of aborting any conceptions produced thereby, the associated national increase in marriage age would not be expected among us.

  8. a random John says:

    John Mansfield,

    I was told recently that the drop in violent crime that began during the Clinton administration can also be attributed to Roe v Wade. The idea being that unwanted babies that would be more likely to become criminals were less likely to be born.

  9. I know that this post was pretty week on reasoning and devoid of evidence. Mostly, it was just to highlight the experiences.

    Maria, six months is better than nothing.

  10. Christina says:

    Random John, that analysis was put forth by the economist Steven D. Levitt a few years back and I believe also included in his current book, Freakonomics.

    But I suggest steering a little away from the abortion red herring. I would argue that because of the good ways in which our expectations of marriage have changed over the last two generations in the U.S., and not because of abortion or birth control, it is better to know one’s spouse before marrying. That is, because we now expect not only romantic love in the beginning of courtship but actual partnership and deep friendship (along with romantic/sexual love and compatibility) throughout the entire marriage, absolute fidelity, often equally shared money-earning, child-rearing and housekeeping roles etc. … a good marriage today is a lot different (and I would say better, at least for what I want out of life) than a good marriage several decades ago. I call that progress, but it does mean we are pickier and work harder at our marriages now, and if you just marry the first RM who winks your way, you probably have less of an opportunity for that type of highly evolved relationship.

    Please don’t misread me – there are so many kinds of marriages in which people can be happy in this world, that I can’t possibly say one must marry older or with a longer courtship or with any courtship at all. But, in the kind of society we live in today, I do think it is helpful to know who you are marrying and really love your partner for the right reasons. Those who know me know I joke that I should have married my husband after six weeks instead of fighting it for 2+ years. We both would have been happier, I think! But, I was only 21 when we met, and I’m glad that by the time we married, I KNEW it was the right decision for me. I would hate to marry and then question that most important of decisions because I didn’t have enough information going into it.

  11. In my last singles ward, there were several people who got married between the ages of 27-35 or older (all first marriages). Many of these people had been able to acheive lofty personal goals while single and unencumbered, such as scholastic pursuits, humanitarian aid, living abroad,k traveling with friends, etc. and were finally ready to settle with a companion.

    I think the notion of moving from one’s parents’ home to a spouse’s (or college to immediate marriage) is, frankly, alarming, as is the idea of marrying the first or second person you’ve dated exclusively for three months (if that).

  12. John Mansfield says:

    random John,

    Steve Sailer, the writer I linked to for the marriage age graph, has poked some holes in Steven Levitt’s Freakonomics abortion-crime hypothesis. Here are Sailer’s writings on the topic. In particular, just look at the two graphs near the top of his page. Homocide by 14-17 year-olds was increasing up to 1995, well after the date the theorized culling of future murderers should have started to take effect. The Brookings Institution table I linked to previously shows as well that illegitimate births have risen despite abortion.

  13. I married at 25 after career achievement and world travel. Hubby was 21.

    But on the flip side, my single, 35-year-old sister worries that she is too set in her ways to be able to make a serious go with someone in marriage. She also worries about the issue of combining money and accounts.

    My father was upset at my choice of partner because hubby was not done with college. We’ve been quite poor the whole time now and this is the cement of our marriage–everything we have, we’ve gained it together.

  14. Heaton, Goodman, and Holman, using data from the National Survey of Families and Households, determined that the average age at first marriage for LDS individuals was 22 and 21 for males and females, respectively. “In Search of a Peculiar People: Are Mormon Families Really Different?” In Contemporary Mormonism: Social Science Perspectives (Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press, 1994). The ages have probably risen a bit since then.

    A few years ago the Deseret News published an article reporting that the average age for marriage in Utah was 23 and 21 for males and females, respectively.

  15. D. Fletcher says:

    I hate to burst your bubble, but if the trend of marrying later really is true, so is the escalating divorce rate among Mormons, even temple divorce. Logic might seem to dictate that marrying younger is preferable.

  16. Christina says:

    Hi D!
    Why does divorce rate necessarily have to be linked to higher marriage age? There are so many factors affecting marriage that have changed along with higher marriage age over the second half of the last century, that I don’t have confidence in that link above all others. How about, the feminist movement meant we no longer accept spousal abuse/sexual infidelity/lack of emotional intimacy – and so because we don’t turn a blind eye to these things and instead expect our partners to change or we divorce, the divorce rate is higher than it used to be, but only temporarily. Divorce rates are actually lower today than they were twenty years ago. I think as people adjust themselves to the new expectations on marriage, divorce rates will re-calibrate and drop as those who choose not to meet those expectations don’t marry, and those who do have stronger marriages.

  17. Cyl,

    By “world travel” I don’t mean a full-time mission or study abroad. The people to whom I’m referring (men and women) respectively started non-profits in third-world countries, managed international businesses, organized renowed volunteer initiatives, etc.

    By “career achievement” I’m talking about more than a decade of independent professional work–the kind that requires post graduate degrees. I’m not talking about retail or customer support experience as a young adult. The kind of “career achievement” I speak of doesn’t leave one broke and destitute, having to struggle with one’s new spouse after marriage. This can be romantic and and a good thing if both partners are mature about their expectations. Believe me, it’s a LOT for fulfilling when both partners have owned their own homes, saved their own money, worked steadfastly to build their careers, and then come together as confident, mature adults instead of adolescents who are tired of living with roommates and get married because of peer pressure or puppy love.

    Great that it worked out for you, but that’s a risk some people aren’t willing to take. Kudos to your successful 35 year old sister!

  18. An interesting observation after almost 32 years of marriage is that here in Washington DC metro area where people are more “worldly” and sophisticated, it really is true that “kids don’t work”, parents pay for school and young twenty-somethings are most likely NOT mature enough to get married and commit to a lifetime (or an eternity) with one partner. That would be my observation after living here for 17 years.

    On the other hand, in another culture – namely the small town Mormon culture of the Intermountain West – my wife and I married when we were just 20 years old (I had been twenty for a week and my wife turned twenty a month after the wedding) and our relationship is stronger now than it ever has been. We had experienced very little of the world by that time in our lives but we experienced it together as the years past. We moved far from home (if 600 miles is considered far) immediately after the wedding where I finished college. We moved across the country away from virtually all of our family, after 14 years of marriage and our relationships with them have also been strengthened by that distance – the custom of cherishing the short times we have together rather than dwelling on unimportant, devisive issues.

    I realize that statisitcs are working against us and those who marry young divorce more regularly than do older marital candidates. We have been fortunate to find strenght in our faith when life has challenged that faith and to use those challenging experiences to reinforce and rededicate our original committment to each other. That may be unique in the world but I think it is based on the same principals with which most of you live your lives. Age and maturity have something to do with it but more than that, personal committment makes the difference.

  19. D. Fletcher says:

    Hi Christina!

    I’m just an observer, of course. But it seems to me that marriage has changed, that it is reflective of individual desire for fulfillment, rather than an arrangement suited to the raising of childen, which is where it came from. Romantic love is the norm today, and so the idea of marriage is finally extended to same-sex couples, who are choosing partners based on personal preference rather than suitability as parents (with same-sex couples, this is the ultimate expression of individuality).

    With the change in the idea of marriage, divorce is simply easier to accept and implement. Divorce rate among Mormons through the 60s was far below the norm — about 1 in 10, as opposed to 1 in 3. But now divorce rate for Mormons runs neck and neck with everyone else — 1 out of every 2.5.

    There are plenty of data to be analyzed, but I do think there something to be said for a very young couple maturing together. My own father was 24 when he married my mother (she was 20). I don’t know if this is “younger” than what we are doing today, but my parents are celebrating their 60th this year, and they are very young and able people for having been married 60 years.

  20. Davis Bell says:

    To the degree one can generalize on matters such as these (and I wonder if the degree is zero), I’ll venture to disagree with J. Stapley.

    I’m 27 and single. I went to BYU, and have lived in the big post-BYU mega-singles wards in DC and NYC. I’ve dated the whole time, and met a lot of people. In my limited experience, it’s better for Mormons to get married younger than earlier. I’m not sure what the ideal age is; if I had to guess, I’d say it’s 23 or 24. J. Stapley pointed out the dangers of getting married young, all of which are real. However, the dangers of getting married later are, in no particular order:

    * Difficulty remaining chaste, and associated difficulties with remaining active in the Church

    * Ever-more numerous and stringent criteria as the pool from which one must draw grows ever-shallower

    * The baggage and issues one accumulates as one dates over time (and the difficulty of two baggaged-individuals dating and getting married)

  21. N Miller says:

    Boy, to think that I will get divorced becuase I got married so young. What was I thinking? I didn’t get to go to Hong Kong and teach english like I wanted to. Oh no! I didn’t have years of “career experience”, shoot me while I am down! Lofty Personal Goals – I can’t have those ’cause I got married too young. What am I to do?!?

    So, if I am not mistaken, these are many of the reasons people think we shouldn’t get married young? Age may make an impact on some of these items, but, if a person really wants to travel to Hong Kong, they will find a way, married or not. If a person really wants to have a wonderful marriage, they will work at it, serve their spouse, give up personal wants, etc. If a person has lofty goals, they can still work for them after marriage. In a lot of ways, I think marriage can increase the potential and ability for people as they can help push each other to greater heights (maybe that is why they are called a help-meet, but I am sure there will be disagreements on that).

    I agree that age and experience make for wiser decisions. But what constitutes the necessary level of wisdom before somebody gets married? I am sure some will tell me that it’s about finishing school, getting experience in a career, and going through numerous relationships and long courtships before we can make a decision. But who makes that distinction?

    I recognize that LDS people get married younger, but what is truly the consequence? I think people say that it is the divorce rate. Wrong, its the same or better. As J Stapley was getting at (I think), is that getting married young seems to rub non-LDS people the wrong way, which in turn puts a dark light on the church. While I don’t want the church to look foolish, I also don’t think that it will stop the Lords work from progressing. Others state that you don’t get to do as much when you get married and have children (ie, travel, work experience) to that, I say nonsense. I may not travel when I am young, but when I am forty and my child is 18 (which will be the case with me) I will be able to leave the children home while my wife and I go and enjoy the world. A few short years later, all my kids will be old enough that my wife and I can go serve missions (and I think that is better for the world than some of the things Bitzi says about world travel, but that is personal observation, I am sure). Of course, you say, that I won’t have the “career experience” and therefore won’t make enough money to do those things. Whatever! What makes me not have the career experience that single people do? Nothing less. In fact, I have found that due to the seriousness of life I have put myself into (married young, had children young) that I have had to get into serious careers earlier than my peers that did not have a family. The only thing that put me “behind” in that arena was my mission, and that, as I see it, didn’t put me behind. True, if, after having three kids, I decided to change careers and start fresh somewhere else becuase I didn’t like my career choice, then I might have a harder time that those that do have a family. But, so far so good, and the future looks bright!

    What can we do? I think that as parents, we need to teach our children to become responsible. I don’t, like Stapley, that the church will tell our children to not get married so soon. If this is the case, the trend will likely continue in the church. So, as a parent, let me prepare my children. Give them experience that they need. Teach them how to make decisions. And, if I so desire, teach them when it is appropriate to get married. Some may teach, as my parents tried, to wait till age 26 (or 29, or 34, or whatever) and out of school. But I think that is proving to them that mom and dad want to control their life. But if I help them understand what it takes to have a spouse and family, then, perhaps, they can make the best decision they can for themselves and make it work. Whether 18 or 34, they can make their own decisions and I will back them up.

    OK, way too long, and I don’t feel I am done yet. But I just want to say that age makes little impression on me of whether a person is ready for marriage, but it is their ability to make it work.

  22. Visitor says:

    As comment 21 indicates, sometimes young couples who struggle and miss certain opportunities earlier in life become jealous and protective of their choices because they’re “stuck”.

    It’s great to get all the growing up, figuring out, traveling, etc. out of the way first and not get married out of codependency or lack of self-control.

  23. N Miller, you make some excellent points. Really, I guess I am not against people marrying young per se. I simply think that most young people aren’t ready for it. Of course there are many who can handle it (as many have pointed out)…and having all the kids out of the house by 42 has got to make for a wicked middle age.

  24. As comment 22 indicates, sometimes people really like to assume they know much more about a person’s intents and desires than is warranted.

    It’s great to stick to what you really know rather than letting your personal biases create narratives about another’s situation into which you can’t possibly have much insight.

  25. N Miller says:

    J Stapley – I am hoping, but in the meantime, I am having an awesome time getting there.

    Visitor – What age do you consider the breaking point between a “young” couple and a mature, odler couple? My intent was not to justify my early marriage as I don’t feel that I was wrong in what choices I made or those who choose not to get married till later are wrong, but to say that age matters little compared to “readiness” and “responsibility” and perhaps what we can do with our children to help them prepare for the wonderful institution of marriage. As is stated in some posts, children are given so much that they don’t learn responsibility until it is forced on them. A hundred years ago, the average marriage age was much younger than even today’s average LDS marriage. Why? Because I think that people a hundred years ago had much more responsibility. As the trend continues the age will get older, I am sure, as the next generation will teach responsibility less than today (assumption, I know). With that in view, perhaps the LDS people teach responsibility to their children better than others, on average. But that would exclude many other cultural aspects that affect it and therefore not intirely accurate.

  26. Visitor says:

    Fair question, N Miller. On further contemplation, I don’t necessarily think it’s calendar age, but range of experience that matters.

    We had someone move into our singles ward once who was 30 and had been through three divorces. Most people in the singles ward were 24-30ish and hadn’t ever been married. I was paired with this woman for VTing and learned a lot from her. Both kinds of baggage were valuable to know about and there are many skills gained from being married, having been divorced, and also from being single for years on end.

    I think the bottom line is that there should be no regrets (or as few as possible). If we empower ourselves with confidence, education, autonomy, physical and spiritual health, we can have a greater range of choices.

    Sorry to pounce; didn’t mean to.

  27. “Don’t get married too young” seems like sound advice, but I think it’s built on the same sort of selective bias that often leads us to false conclusions. If you know a couple of people who married vegetarians and it didn’t work out, you’re likely to form a “don’t marry a vegetarian” rule. I’m not sure young marriage really fail that much more than any other pairing.

    I think a better rule for marriage timing is: get married when you find the right person. That could be at 18 or at 38 or at 58. Finding the right person is a bit of a trick, but whenever they happen to show up, that’s the time!

  28. Rosalynde says:

    I don’t know, J. Very young brides and grooms–under 20 and 22, say–make me nervous; my husband and I were married at 24 and 27, and of course that seems just about perfect to me! :)

    I think divorce correlates almost perfectly to the ability of women to fend for themselves in the wide world of the marketplace. Therefore I’d guess that divorce would be more common for couples in which the woman is educated or has job training–and I’d also guess that this is far more likely to be the case when marriage occured later.

  29. I think Dave’s post was great, but I’d add that generally someone with more life experience than a recent high school graduate’s could make better critical decisions, including the decision on whom to marry.

    I turned down a proposal at 18, and between that time and the two decades in which it took to find my soulmate, I earned three degrees, traveled to every continent, made a lot of money, gained confidence in many areas, developed many talents, and wouldn’t trade any of it for the world!

    Two 18 year olds have a lot in common: they both graduated from high school, like the same kind of pop stars, both went to Seminary, both like strawberry milkshakes. With a few more years on them, the range of interests hopefully expands, and people’s personalities begin to gel. Young adults “find themselves.” Recent studies that the brain doesn’t even fully develop until the early 20s.

  30. Greg Call says:

    I think Rosalynde may have it exactly backwards. I found this from the NYT:

    “As the overall divorce rates shot up from the early 1960’s through the late
    1970’s, Dr. Martin found, the divorce rate for women with college degrees
    and those without moved in lockstep, with graduates consistently having
    about one-third to one-fourth the divorce rate of nongraduates.

    “But since 1980, the two groups have taken diverging paths. Women without
    undergraduate degrees have remained at about the same rate, their risk of
    divorce or separation within the first 10 years of marriage hovering at
    around 35 percent. But for college graduates, the divorce rate in the first
    10 years of marriage has plummeted to just over 16 percent of those married
    between 1990 and 1994 from 27 percent of those married between 1975 and
    1979.”

    Seems that better educated women are actually less likely to divorce, at least in the first 10 years of marriage. This doesn’t prove causation, of course.

  31. N Miller says:

    Evette – Therefore, because the brain hasn’t fully developed, we shouldn’t get married. How will I know when my brain is fully developed? What is fully developed? Should we even send people to school or work on work a job until it is fully developed? You never know what will happen to them if their brain is not fully developed becuase you can’t make decisions without a fully developed brain. For example, how can an underdeveloped person decide what school to go to or what to study. A choice of study seems almost as restrictive of choice as does a marriage partnership as you will likely be “married” to that choice the rest of your life unless you “divorce” it.

    Anyways,
    I kind of wonder what we are arguing here. Is it what age should people get married? It seems to be and perhaps I have added to the trend, but I think we need to qualify that. Why is getting married too young bad? Is it because of divorce? That has been discussed numerous times and it seems that LDS people do a better job (assuming temple marriage and stated statistics from BYU). I think J Stapley brought it out for other reasons. It is affecting the view from outsiders (and insiders) of the mormon church.

    Discussing this, I would say that if non-lds people look at the church and the thought that comes to their mind is that members are getting married to young, they have more to learn about the church. It almost seems like a great missionary opportunity to teach someone more about the church.

    “Yep, that no premarital sex thing sometimes gets people married for the wrong reasons. (wink)”

    “No doubt, if that was the reason they got married. I wonder what their reasons were for getting married in the first place? Did you know that mormons who get married in the temple get divorced much less often than the average marriage?”

    “oh, sorry, I didn’t mean to offend.”

    “oh, you didn’t, I think that even though that many LDS people get married young, that they somehow have a better chance at making it work, granted a few that fail”

    “why do you think that is?”

    “well, although I haven’t looked into it a ton, I would say it is the view of the family through the teachings of the Jesus. Do you have any religious affiliations?”

    “well, I was baptised Catholic, but I only go on Easter and Christmas, but I have wondered recently more about the purpose of life….”

    Who knows, maybe in those situations we can actually help the outlook on the church a little better rather than keeping quiet and keeping the church in obscurity. Takes a lot of courage though.

  32. Exactly, Greg. There’s likely some element of better-educated women being less needy of a husband, less willing to settle for someone who has major problems, and so forth. Also, they’re probably less likely to be part of a shotgun wedding.

  33. Greg, perhaps Rosalynde is just telegraphing her attempt to reconcile some desire for a divorce with her well known ability “to fend for [herself] in the wide world of the marketplace.” Projection anyone?

  34. Miranda, that seems a little rough.

  35. Rosalynde says:

    Greg, the article doesn’t give statistics for percentage of educated women getting married in the first place, which I’d guess has plummetted and is drastically lower than for uneducated women. Your point is good, though, and maybe I’ve confused general cultural trends with individual circumstances: it seems clear to me that divorce *in general* has become more common (and marriage less common) at least partly because it has become more feasible for women to provide for themselves and their children alone–whether or not they have college degrees. But perhaps the general cultural trend, which affects educated and non-educated women, doesn’t predict specific outcomes for educated v. non-educated women.

  36. Rosalynde says:

    LOL, Miranda! You forget that my degree is in English literature, and that I am currently very unequivocally unemployed. I have enough self-knowledge to realize that whatever personal value my degree has, it doesn’t have an awful lot of earning power where it is now. ;)

    I’m all in favor of projection, though; it makes the bloggernacle so much more interesting!

  37. Greg Call says:

    Rosalynde,

    Again, I’m not so sure about your guess. According to the site linked below (which I only skimmed), women with college degrees are actually more likely to get married than those with less education. Though, interestingly, likelihood of marriage seems to decrease with each year of education beyond an undergraduate degree. From other sources, I’ve heard that the percentage of college-educated women getting married has not dropped, but the age at which they marry has risen.

    Study on marriage and education

  38. JS-

    I agree that I would counsel my kids not to marry too young. That said, however, I vehemently object to the following statement:

    Freshmen in college have zero comprehension of the world or life. Parents pay for everything. Kids rarely work, at least in this area. They simply have no responsibility.

    My parents did not pay for everything. I worked dang hard to earn money. My wife’s parents contributed nothing towards her education. In fact, my wife’s parents had contributed nothing financially for her since she was about 13 years old (absent food and some modicum of shelter, though that shelter consisted only of a tent for several of her teenage years). She was/is very self-sufficient, even as a freshman in college. To say that she had no responsibility would be patently false. She was 19 when we married, and quite mature for her age (though we do occasionally laugh at how relatively immature we were then, prior to having almost 4 children).

    When we married, I was also very young. I worked full time at a bank while going to school full time to earn money for a family, have health insurance benefits, and still pursue an college education. After our first child was born, I continued working full time in the bank (40 hours/week), going to school full time (12-15 credits a semester) and I picked up an additional 20 hour per week job cleaning toilets in the SFLC at 4:00 am (about the only time I did not have scheduled for something at that point). Looking back on it, I think I was busier then than I am now as an attorney who regularly bills around 220 hours a month (except when I am busy- then it’s more).

    Finally, although I did not marry as a freshman (since I was had served a mission before marrying), even as a freshman I knew about the realities of work and the responsibility of life. The summer prior to my freshman year I worked 3 different jobs- opening one fast food restaurant, afternoon in another branch of the same restaurant, and every other evening working in a grocery store.

    I am not trying toot my own horn here, but I disagree that freshman have no concept of responsibility. Use us as examples. There are some, it is true, who waste their little lives away playing x-box and being lazy- I met lots of those types as an instructor at the University of Michigan. But there are many more, e.g. my wife and I, who don’t.

    Yes- although we were undoubtedly less mature then than we are now, we certainly were no strangers to hard work and heavy responsibility.

  39. Greg Call says:

    More on the direct topic of J.’s post: I think J.’s right that most college freshmen nowadays are clueless and probably should not get married. But perhaps the answer is not to teach later marriage, but rather do a better job of helping our kids become independent, realistic, and responsible at an earlier age. There’s no reason our kids can’t be just as mature at 19-21 as J.’s bishop was. And I think D.’s right that there is something to be said for a young (but stable, clear-eyed, and responsible) couple maturing together.

  40. Geez. I married at 22 and my wife at 21.5. She felt old at BYU. We thought we were so mature. She had her degree and, although only a bachelor’s degree, had knowledge that could produce visceral, money-making results–and she was working. I was close to being done and on my way to graduate school. You know what? It felt like the right thing to do. After much soul searching and what we hoped/thought/knew were heavenly endorsements, we did it. We tied the knot. We took the plunge. By any estimation, we’re pretty darn happy six and one half years later.

    That said, it’s almost impossible to truly enjoy (and benefit from) all the world has to offer being tied down by my wife and three kids.

    Wait–no it’s not. There’s one more anecdote for this incredibly scientific inquiry.

  41. Greg Call says:

    Thanks, Jordan. That’s exactly what I was referring to.

  42. Ryan- your wife had a degree. That already sets her apart from the “immature” freshman referenced by J.S.

  43. Last week I was driving a gaggle of young women down to Fresno to do baptisms for the dead. The other leader in the car with me was telling how she got married at 19 — “too young,” she said. Yet she has a wonderful marriage and three beautiful children.

    This is a persistent pet peeve of mine, this generalization about marrying too young. I married at 19, too. I had one year of college behind me, and my husband had one semester. I was young, but not too young. I knew what I was doing. I knew what I was sacrificing, and I knew it was worth it. We’ll have our twelfth anniversary this August. We’ve been in school nearly the whole time, adopted two great little boys and had some cool adventures and tough times. I don’t regret it one iota.

    I told this particular gaggle of girls (mostly 12 and 13 years old) in the car on the way to Fresno that if they spent the next several years seriously learning how to pray and listen, they would be sure to get married at just the right age, whether it was 18 or 35 or never. I’ll stand by that.

  44. Rosalynde says:

    Ouch, Greg, strike two! :)

    Seriously, we’re dealing with a lot of complex variables here, and I think we may be talking past each other. The study you link to, as I understand it, shows an inverted U in marriage rates plotted against education levels: that is, beyond a certain level of education, there is a decreasing rate of marriage with increasing education. The rate of decrease is less now than it was two decades ago (one would expect this as more women seek higher education), but it’s still there.

    Still, though, I think my reasoning was off when I suggested that we could predict individual marriage outcomes based on a general cultural trend, and I’m not advancing the claim I made in #28 anymore.

  45. Steve, my comment #33 was meant jokingly, but you’re right that it might be taken as harsh. Luckily, Rosalynde took it the right way. Perhaps you’re projecting?

  46. Jordan & Greg Call, I agree. My post is rather flawed in that it is over-generalized. I do believe that there are pleanty of hard working responsible college freshmen out there. In my experieance on college campuses, they are very few.

  47. I was 23. My wife was 26. I was a college senior about to go to law school, and my wife had a BA and was a high school teacher. We had both served missions. We had known each other for 2 years, then dated non-exclusively for 6 months, dated exclusively for 6 months, and then engaged for 8 months, which if I recall correctly was regarded as a long engagement by BYU standards.

    I suppose I could have been older and gained more life experience and what not before getting married. Though in my defense, at one point before marriage I was on the bridge of my starship when an alien probe approached and knocked me unconscious with a neucleon particle stream. At the time it appeared to me that the beam had somehow transported me to an unfamiliar but pleasant planet where I quickly became integrated into the friendly society of the planet’s peace loving people. Without hope of return to my starship, I acclimated myself, worked as an iron weaver, married, had children, and then grandchildren. I lived to the age of 85. A disaster destroyed the planet to which I thought I had been transported, but not before my adopted people managed to launch a probe into space which would grant the them some measure of immortality by telling their story to an unknown, distant, and future being. Of course, I was that being: the probe was the one that I encountered on my starship, and the entire lifetime I thought I had lived was merely an illusion, though the people I met and experiences I had seemed perfectly real to me. I regained consciousness on the bridge of my ship and the crew informed me that I had only been out for 25 minutes, but in that time I had experienced a whole lifetime, the memories of which will be with me forever. I also learned to play the flute.

  48. Welcome to the bloggernacle, Captain Picard.

  49. Did that happen to him too?

  50. John Mansfield says:

    Some may be interested in these figures. (Source: Heaton and Goodman, 1985. “Religino and Family Formation.” Review of Religous Research 26:343-59. Found in chapter 8 of Latter-day Saint Social Life edited by James T. Duke.)

    Per cent of those over age 30 who have ever married: Catholics, 89; Liberal Protestants, 94; Conservative Protestants, 96; Mormons, 97; No Religion, 83.

    Per cent of persons ever married who have divorced: Catholics, 21; Liberal Protestants, 27; Conservative Protestants, 29; Mormons, 16; No Religion, 41; Mormon Temple Marriage, 5; Mormon Non-Temple Marriage, 30.

    These numbers are twenty years old. If anyone can quantify the changes that D. Fletcher mentioned in comments 15 and 19, I would be interested.

  51. i like the idea of marrying a little older, i think that you really come to know who you are durring the years of 18-22. the person i was then would have had a rough time being married.

    however, i do see benefits on both ends that have nothing to do with just avoiding chastity problems. let’s face it, you have more energy when you are young, it’s likely easier to get through school, maybe even easier to raise young kids, etc..

    but i do think that our idea of young could start around 22 and up instead of being right out of high school!

  52. I must admit to chuckling a bit about the advice to know each other at least six months before getting married. That’s how long my wife and I knew each other when we wed, and many, many people felt that we were getting married awfully quickly (we weren’t in LDS territory, and I wasn’t LDS then). Sometimes I think (and I say this with due respect, seriously) that people in Utah come from a different planet than the rest of this country, if advice such as “wait as least six months” draws opposition.

    Well, we married at 30/24, and that was more than 20 years ago (I lost count). We’ve told our kids we’d like to see them graduate from college before marrying, and I still think that’s good counsel. (And for those who don’t go to college, I’d advise living on one’s own for at least a year or two before marriage.) I fail to see what rush there is to marry sooner.

  53. Eric-

    My opposition is not to criticism of “the rush”- indeed, I’m all for people taking their time. I just object to the assertion that people that young are not responsible, hard-working, and capable of handling marriage.

    You were not in the age group mentioned by JS, and neither was your wife. My quibble is with the assertion that a 19 year old is somehow too immature to handle marriage. My wife (now nearing 30) is living proof that this assertion is false- she was very responsible and mature).

    That’s not saying that people should not wait a while to get married. Only that if it happens to happen when one is 19, then that is certainly not too young and someone of that age is very capable of being a hard-working, responsible member of society with more that a mere clue about life.

  54. John Mansfield says:

    Looking back at my previous rambling on the demise of shotgun weddings, it doesn’t seem clear what my point may have been. I grew up in the part of Clark County, Nevada that ranked fourth in the 2000 census for the portion of households that are formed by unmarried heterosexual partners. The bulk of the country, particularly the majority that doesn’t go to graduate school or even graduate from college nor tour the world, hasn’t deferred marriage for the sake of mature preparation towards that commitment. It has just replaced young marriage with cohabitation and other forms of companionship. I don’t think anyone in my old neighborhood is better off for this change. (I also happenned to live from 2000 to 2004 in Livonia, Michigan, which ranked sixth in the portion of households formed by married couples.)

    J. Stapley wasn’t talking about the country at large, though, but just the Latter-day Saints. So if we were to defer marriage as the rest of the country has done it would have to be done for our own, still separate reasons, something more akin to the economic motives that pushed marriage ages up during the Depression. Does anyone else remember the Tom Trails filmstrip that had Tom and Lilly decide to finish high school before marrying?

  55. I’m 53 and only beginning feeling mature enough to be married. Give me a few more years, maybe I’ll be ready.

    My daughter is 19, getting married in a few months. I think she’s too young. I am comforted by her desire to put off having kids for a few years, I think that’s a good decision—I don’t know if she’ll really do it. But still a good idea.

    Maybe people could postpone having children a few years? Heresy?

  56. Annegb-

    nobody ever said it was heresy to put off having kids. But my wife and I felt ready when we were very young, so we did. And in most ways, we were ready.

  57. Married Later says:

    I guess it’s up to each individual and couple to decide what they want out of life and why. I found that at a later age I had experienced more of life as an adult, so I was able to make a mature decision about who I wanted as a spouse. I’d had the experiences of property ownership, heartbreak, college degrees, etc. that helped to form my character and identity to the point that I knew who I’d select to help me on the rest of my journey. I also had years to analyze my emotional and psychological health, grow spiritually, and go through hardships alone. I knew that in the event of marriage and sudden calamity, I could live life as an adult completely self-sufficiently. I had done it before and could do it again.

    Some people want to grow up together. That’s their prerogative , but it certainly wasn’t mine.

  58. In general, I agree: it’s best to finish college first, and a year or two of work experience and independent living is a Good Thing, too.

    Tonight, though, I attended a wedding reception. Bride and Groom are in their early 20’s, and have been dating for three years – a very, very long time among the Mormons. I have to say, seeing those two beautiful young people, so radiantly happy, made the practical curmudgeon in me kind of embarrassed.

    Knock ’em dead, kids. How better to start your grown-up life, than young and in love and with eternity to work out the kinks?

  59. Seth Rogers says:

    From a practical standpoint, getting married (and having children) is never convenient.

    Putting off marriage for external reasons, like graduate degrees, career fulfillment, world travel, or other “exciting things” is short-sighted in my view.

    Putting it off for internal reasons, such as lack of maturity (in either party), spiritual promptings, and pure intuitive conviction is much more reasonable.

    The external stuff is silly, illusory, selfish, and really not all it’s cracked up to be. The internal reasons are just good policy.

    I’ve known women and men who were fully capable and ready for marriage at age 18. I’ve also known women who weren’t ready at age 30.

    Of course, if a woman wants children, the unfairness of biology starts kicking in as well, but I’m not going to dig into that too deeply.

  60. Amen Seth.

    Growing up my parents taught my siblings and me that one of the most important things to look for in a spouse was a whole person. Meaning, not someone you will need/want to change, someone with a lot of baggage they are dealing with, you get the picture.

    All of my siblings got married at early ages, I myself was 21. 3/4 of my siblings have had happy marriages so far and are married to very nice people. My one sibling who has been divorced twice has never followed the advice of my parents and ended up marrying men with a lot of problems both times.

    Maybe it’s not age that matters so much but the people involved.

  61. Bitzi:

    * Sorry I don’t meet your criteria.

    * I’ve never worked in retail or customer support. I went from my BA straight to a four-person publishing team in Manhattan.

    * I was not a member till my 20s, no mission or study abroad for me. I traveled overseas for my own pleasure.

    * I said poor, not “broke and destitute.” We had a honeymoon baby, which took me out of the workforce before we were married a year. Hubby’s income potential was much lower and continues to be until he finishes school.

  62. 20? I'm shocked! says:

    This is my virgin post to this site–so treat me gently.

    I was a young bride (20; my husband 30), so I definitely fall into the it-depends-on-the-person and-the-circumstances camp. I felt ready because I’d graduated from BYU, moved to New York and was working full-time at a national magazine. To put it plainly, I knew I was young, but I felt sufficiently “qualified” for marriage. Since getting married (2 years ago), I’ve traveled extensively with my husb and I’ve been promoted, twice, at work. My marriage hasn’t kept me from enjoying life experiences–if anything, it’s enhanced my ability to do so. This sounds cheesy, but it’s genuine, so I’m going to say it anyway: I’m grateful for the love and support that I enjoy in my marriage. I’m glad that I didn’t discard the relationship for fear that I was too young.

    But, on the other hand, did I need the degree and the job and the living-away-from-my-folks experience in order to “qualify” for a healthy relationship? My cousin was 18 when she married; her husband 21. She’s been married about 5 years and has 2 kids and one on the way. Her family has lived in her parent-in-laws’ basement while her husband goes through medical school. Certainly, that’s not an ideal situation, but here’s the thing: she’s happy and it works for her.

    Really, what we’re talking about–the difference between 18 and 24 or 20 and 27–is not a huuuuuge difference. Yeah, a lot of growing can occur in 5-7 years, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t happen faster or slower (or not at all). I’ve dated guys much older than that who were not ready. And I’ve seen girls that I thought weren’t ready blossom into wonderful wives and mothers.

    The bottom line: Don’t act self-righteous because you got married later/earlier/started having kids right away/waited until after your career took off/are a stay-at-home-mom/successfully balance family and career/etc. It’s tiresome. Enjoy the variety. If everyone took the same path, who would we have to gossip about?

  63. Rosalynde,
    I married earlier than I expected (at 21, even though my parents were late 20s and all my grandparents were 30s).
    I would have to say that my marriage was the making of me.
    You know the “woman behind the man” compliment? I have to thank my husband for being the man behind this woman. I get a lot of credit, and it wasn’t until just recently that I truly realized that everything I’ve accomplished (and I mean “I”) I needed my husband as my partner, as my rock, in order to do so. His love and our marriage has really made it possible for me to accomplish a lot. Without him and without my children, I would have taken a different path….perhaps accomplished a lot and reached a different potential. I’ll never know.
    How wonderful that you can look back on your single years as years you spent wisely. How wonderful that I look back on the years I spent being married, and I am grateful for all of them.

  64. One thing missing in this conversation is this:

    LDS couples should get married when they both receive a witness from the spirit that they have met the right person and its time to pull the trigger. In my family history (wife and I, includes apostles/pres of the church plus regular folks like us), mostly temple marriages the ages range from 20-30. I would say that 20-30 seems to be the right age span. The key is the witness from the spirit.

  65. One alarming thing about Mormons’ marrying earlier is that generally the men are taken out of the social/dating world for two years on missions. When they return at 21, it’s a good idea to get used to relating to people on a non-missionary level. It’s too tempting to marry in order to “avoid sin” because of hormonal drives, especially after having avoided the opposite sex for two whole years!

    The twenties are a time for exploration–of the self, the natural world, higher education, etc. In one’s twenties, people come out of the closet, embark on a life’s work, go through a range of personality traits, prove their mettle, etc.

    If (early) marriage is a cover for not wanting to grow up or explore life alone, then it’s a bad thing. if not, it can be a good thing.

  66. Seth Rogers says:

    What’s so great about exploring life alone.

    Independence is vastly overrated in America.

  67. It is very late at night and somehow I got to this site looking for information on something else. I read many posts and felt I had to reply. These are all opinions right!!?? I know that part of this issue everyone is stuck on is based on (in some part) religious belief, but whether or not a person is too old or too young, too immature or lacking the experience of responsibility; it is not really anyone’s call to make. I married very young (yes, my husband was young too) and have been married for almost 10 years. Please believe I am in no way deffensive about the situation I am just stating that young marriages can and do work. I guess my point is that you can not judge a person or situation based on what you think or even what you have experienced when it comes to another person because everyone is different. In my experience I had lived 100 years (as far as experience goes)before I turned 21 years of age. I had more responsibility at age 15 than some people ever even have to think about till the day they die. Marriage depends on the two people getting involved. Age does not have a maturity, resposibility, or experience level required tag attached to it. Some people grow up much faster than one should ever have too and some NEVER do. It all depends on who we are, the environments we learn from, and the descions we make. And don’t forget as much as we all have our opinions, young or old, no marriage is perfect; and imperfection (maybe in this case divorce)is what we learn from.

  68. …..just to clarify, I don’t promote divore or think that it is a good thing (under most circumstances). My point to that is more general and this is what I meant by it:

    Something good always comes out of a bad situation. Many people fail to see it but if you take a bad situation and look at it, you will see it, cause everything happens for a reason.

  69. bonita, of course these are all opinions!!! (often uninformed and occasionally offensive.) welcome to the world of blogging…. :o) The problem with bringing up broad statistics and social trends is that the exceptions are always so meaningful. Congratulations on your successful marriage–always happy to hear when it works out.

%d bloggers like this: