I am getting married this weekend and I’ve learned a lot of things along the way. Don’t get me wrong—I am far from an expert. In fact, I think that a wedding, like a graduation (which actually is called “commencement” which means “to begin”) is just the first step out the door. There is still much I have to learn, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some wisdom to share along the way. In no particular order, each day this week I will share some musings from the journey. First, let’s start with this:
There are pros & cons to getting married younger, and there are pros & cons to getting married later. What are some? (The following are generalizations; of course there are plenty of exceptions to these pictures I’ve painted):
Pros to getting married younger / Cons to getting married older:
-The pool of available people is much larger when you are younger. The older you get, the fewer choices you have, and those remaining choices may be either undesirables, or people who have exceedingly high standards. Or they may just be normal people who haven’t found “the one” yet. Whatever the case, the longer you wait, the more the odds are not in your favor.
-Young couples are flexible and not yet set in their ways, so they are like putty that can mold together a lot easier. Older couples are often much more set in their ways so they have to break formed habits in order to gel with the other. Sometimes it’s really tough to put together two inflexible people.
-Young couples grow together. They have more time to develop history together, so they have more of life to share and become one. That is beautiful, to share so much history.
-Getting married younger forces you to grow up and mature faster. Being Peter Pan forever is not an option, and that is a good thing.
-Young couples can inflict a lot of pain on each other via inadvertent mistakes, but I list that in the “pro” category because as a Christian I believe in forgiveness and in healing and the power of reconciliation. Younger couples have had more opportunity to forgive each other’s mistakes and that can make a relationship grow stronger, if it is done right. (One qualification: old people are usually either full of grace, or bitter and crotchety—it all depends which direction they go when confronted with life’s struggles. But if the right path is chosen, it is so beautiful. If the wrong path is chosen, the result is quite ugly.)
-Similar to the point above, young couples often learn to make do with very little. They learn to be frugal, and learn to be content with not much. This can make for some lovely “Gift of the Magi” moments. That kind of perseverance breeds a lot of character. The couple who successfully transcends struggles together, stays together!
-Young couples can wait longer before having kids, so they can enjoy each other’s company in a kid-free (aka less stressed) environment. Older couples don’t have the luxury of waiting as long and sometimes bring in the stressful dynamic of children before they’ve barely even started getting to know each other as a couple. Or they may find they have waited too long and now can’t conceive, which is a bitter pill to swallow.
-Getting married older means that I may be a father at 50 when my peers were fathers at 25. That’s not ideal. Not to mention, I don’t know if I will ever see grandchildren.
Pros to getting married older / Cons to getting married younger:
-Older people know themselves more and are more settled into who they will be for the rest of their lives, so they can find a good match with someone who likewise has discovered themselves. Whereas, younger people sometimes marry someone and they don’t know how the other person (or themselves!) will turn out.
-Older couples are less prone to letting their hormones dictate how quickly they jump into marriage (this is more true of guys than girls, but it can be true of girls). I know that when I was in my 20s, my criteria was very skewed: physical looks were very high on my list of criteria and I probably would have ended up marrying someone hot but shallow and regretted that decision for the rest of my life. Now that I just turned 40, my priorities are much more sensible and I can think a lot straighter and wiser in my decision-making without being controlled by my libido.
-Older couples have enjoyed life as singles (traveled the world, earned university degrees, gotten their dream jobs) and have “lived it up.” They don’t have to regret missing out on life because of marriage, or resenting their spouse for keeping them from living out their dreams. For example, I got to move to England and do my doctorate degree at Oxford University. I know many married people with kids who, in order to do what I did, have had to either drag their family to the other side of the world which causes a lot of uprootedness and angst; or they’ve had to turn down the opportunity to study in exotic locales. In contrast, I’ve been able to have my cake and eat it too, by doing it in linear fashion: study overseas and get my degree, then get a job, then worry about navigating marriage, instead of trying to do all of them at the same time (trying to parent kids while working on a Ph.D. while living overseas) which often wreaks havoc on a couple’s relationship.
-Older people have more money. I was able to afford a really nice engagement ring that a 21-year-old couldn’t have. I was able to offer a house to my wife that a 21-year-old couldn’t have. I don’t bring tens of thousands of dollars of tuition debt into my marriage like a 21-year-old would. And that’s not just a nice thing, it is a marriage-saving thing, because I’ve heard that the #1 cause of divorce is finances.
-And the most important one: I was so immature as a person when I was in my 20s, in fact even when I was in my 30s (I confess I’m a late bloomer)! I probably would have done a lot of stupid things inadvertently (and intentionally) to hurt my wife if I got married young, whereas I have “grown up” a lot more and have learned not to do some obviously stupid things now. It took me a long time to mature, and I’m so glad that I don’t have to inflict so many idiotic mistakes on my wife which I most certainly would have done if I were 21. Now I only will inflict half as many idiotic mistakes! :)
Is there a right answer? No. Everyone is different, and God slotted each person to be married when they were ready, depending on their circumstances, dispositions, and maturity.
All in all, looking at the above list, I’m glad I’m getting married older* rather than younger, because God knows that that was best for me. I know I’m probably biased because of my personal situation, but I’d be happy to hear what others have to say about the “pros” of getting married younger. I’m sure there are lots that I’ve missed. (And I have to say: many of my best friends got married younger and have fantastic marriages, so I definitely know it can be done quite successfully!)
Speaking of getting married older, check out my blog post which will appear tomorrow, on the topic of “Should I wait?” If getting married older has so many benefits, shouldn’t everyone do it? My answer may surprise you…
*I just turned 40, which is not really “old”—it’s middle age. But that’s why I said “older” because it’s relative to getting married at 21. And my fiancée is much younger than me so she certainly wouldn’t be classified as “older”!