Thursday, October 1, 2009

Early Marriages and Mission Ages

I have wanted to start being a bit more philosophical in my postings, get some thoughts out there and let people run with them. Between not having enough time, or at least motivation, that hasn't happened. Now, thanks to a link by my boy Matty Cakes, I have one.

And it's got to be one of the granddaddies of them all for my peers--marriage. Not only marriage, but getting married young (everyone gasp!). An article in the Washington Post arges not only for marriage, but also claims that young marriage gets a bad rap.

I don't believe that getting married young means your marriage is going to fail. Neither does Mark Regnerus, the author of the article and a professor at Texas. I believe it depends on the attitudes of the two people. Are younger people more immature? I would argue that they are often just as mature as many people that are older.

This is especially true for women, which is especially good considering they are likely the youngest of the two genders in a "young marriage." I can see how my views would be flawed if 19-year-old men were getting married all over the place--I don't trust their maturity, either. I certainly wouldn't have trusted mine. But a woman the same age is likely to be more emotionally advanced and fits with a guy in his 20s (see #2 below).

There are many reasons why men go on missions at 19 and women at 21. But I would say that one reason is that it helps men grow up so that they are more mature and marriage-ready when they get home at 21. They are more on a level with a younger girl. Sure, it's not what us proud guys would like to believe, and of course there are many exceptions, but I think it's the general rule. Women don't go at that earlier age because it is a great time to get married, especially to these 21-year-old returned missionaries, most of whom, whether due to social norms or, more likely, commonalities in thought and where they are at in life, are looking for a younger woman. Think about it, it would be foolish to say girls don't leave until later because they aren't as ready for a mission as guys until they are 21 years old, right? The sisters in my mission could've destroyed us elders at any time.

Regnerus cites the fact that divorce is high among young marriages. To combat this argument, he says:
1) "The age-divorce link is most prominent among teenagers (those who marry before age 20). Marriages that begin at age 20, 21 or 22 are not nearly so likely to end in divorce as many presume.
2) Most young women are mature enough to handle marriage. According to data from the government's National Survey of Family Growth, women who marry at 18 have a better shot at making a marriage work than men who marry at 21. There is wisdom in having an age gap between spouses.
3) Third, 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...But what really matters for making marriage happen and then making it good are not matches, but mentalities: such things as persistent and honest communication, conflict-resolution skills, the ability to handle the cyclical nature of so much of marriage, and a bedrock commitment to the very unity of the thing. I've met 18-year-olds who can handle it and 45-year-olds who can't."

I agree. I have, at minimum, five great friends that married young girls. All married girls that were 20 while they themselves were around age 22. Of course, I can't foretell the future. But I can see in each the genuine love they have for each other. Many of my PR friends are the same. The teachings of the Church and the guidance in their lives from faith and parents help them love the good times and give proper perspective to the hard times.

The conclusions of my ramblings are these: You will never hear me worry about someone marrying young (how soon after meeting someone is another completely different topic). If anything, I am for it. I'm not going to try and cite some uncle's cousin's dad's step-brother's mission president that said get married fast, but I do laugh and love Apostle Elder Dallin H. Oaks's comment: "It’s marriage time. That is what the Lord intends for His young adult sons and daughters. Men have the initiative, and you men should get on with it." An apostle has faith in it, and I honestly think of it as a straight up commandment to do what you can to fulfill it wisely.

Sidenote: How does this affect me, being a strapping 24 years of age, not young but still not as old as the national average of first marriages (age 28)? Obviously the comments above are not universal. There are always exceptions. That said, I still honestly think all the time about why I may be different from the friends I listed above. I don't generally think down on myself, though I do wonder why. Was I any less mature than my friends who got married younger than me? Quite possibly, but maybe not. Regardless, I pray I am progressing and becoming better as I get older so I may be able to complement my wife, wherever she is and however young (or old) she may be.


  1. Maturity is kind of like intelligence. You can have different levels in different areas. Hopefully whomever you choose to marry has the necessary areas developed at the very least and hopefully you do as well.

    But I've definitely grown to find that a lot of the apparent "extra maturity" found in women that enables them to marry younger doesn't necessarily translate to all facets of life. I've seen that a lot lately with a lot of the women that work in my office. I can't believe how catty and gossipy they can be sometimes. It really is sad. But of course that's not to say the men can't be that way as well, nor that we don't have our own maturity problems.

    Basically it just boils down to the idea of trying to understand where others are coming from, show them sympathy, empathize with them, and treat them like you wanted to be treated. Hopefully they do the same for you.

  2. Thanks for the hat-tip sir.
    As for why you're not married yet (or I or Scotty Cakes for that matter), perhaps not being "ready" or "mature" enough for marriage is not the reason. Sometimes it just takes a bit longer to find the person you fit right together with. It's a quest. And it's not a bad thing that it takes some people longer than others. In some ways, it's just luck. In other ways, maybe some people are just more compatible with a greater number of potential mates. Now if that statement doesn't describe you, that's not a bad thing--perhaps you can just consider yourself a step above the masses. Everyone's different after all.

  3. I have wise roommates.

    It's totally about being unselfish. Maybe it isn't just maturity, but maturity in being unselfish and communicating well with your spouse. You can be immature in other areas (such as gossiping or whatever) and still get away with it.

    And I don't think we're not married because we're immature. :) You date and see what happens and sometimes it takes longer than others.

  4. Well said Jordan. I liked the post a lot. :)

  5. I say if we both hit 28, and we are still single then... we just go for it.