Warning: this may cause you to pit out.
This Sunday's Washington Post featured an article that challenged -- among other things on the topic of marrying young -- Gen X's frequently held presumption that the earlier you marry, the less likely it will last.
The writer's thesis statement is simple: marrying young isn't inherently wrong or inherently risky. Waiting well into your twenties (and beyond), on the other hand, is definitively risky and not actually all that "good for you" in the traditional senses (those being saves you money, makes you happy).
Apparently the average age men marry is now 28 -- up 5 years from what it was in 1970 (right, 23). It used to be that women still married young but now the gap is closing and women are marrying just as old as men. So men are marrying older and therefore so are women because -- for the most part -- women marry men.
Fine -- but why? Why is everyone marrying older? And what does our generation have against marrying young?
According to the author -- this:
- Since we were young, our generation has been advised by parents, teachers, and after-school specials to focus on ourselves, our careers and our independence. Says this writer -- someone around the age of our parents -- "[Parents] caution that depending on another person is weak and fragile. We don't want them to rush into a relationship. We won't help you with college tuition anymore, we threaten. Don't repeat our mistakes, we warn." As a result we de-value marriage and instead view independence, maturity, & existing on our own two feet as the goal.
- Then we spread this thought base on our peers. Again: "In my research on young adults' romantic relationships, many women report feeling peer pressure to avoid giving serious thought to marriage until they're at least in their late 20s. If you're seeking a mate in college, you're considered a pariah, someone after her "MRS degree." Actively considering marriage when you're 20 or 21 seems so sappy, so unsexy, so anachronistic. Those who do fear to admit it -- it's that scandalous." So getting married young becomes taboo and waiting to marry is socialized as normal, respectable, and the smart decision.
- And finally -- we approach the idea of a life-long mate from place of logic and math. We are well acquainted with the divorce rate -- some of us intimately so -- and we don't want to be us. So "well-educated people are convinced that there actually is a recipe for guaranteed marital success that goes something like this: Add a postgraduate education to a college degree, toss in a visible amount of career success and a healthy helping of wealth, let simmer in a pan of sexual variety for several years, allow to cool and settle, then serve. Presto: a marriage with math on its side."
I'll give it to the guy. Those are real reasons. Some of them are my own reasons, in fact. And while I would never end a healthy, stable, adult relationship because I felt it was a. taboo and b. preventing me from real career success -- I'll admit I'm not predisposed to search for one because I both have other priorities in line and do believe waiting until I've grown more will prevent me from doing so much growing inside a relationship that I eventually grow out.
In my mind that's not wrong or counterproductive or harmful to my eventual self -- it's just my 25-year-old stage.
According to that article the benefits of waiting to marry are not rooted on fact, not entirely productive, and actually very harmful to both my current and future self.
- First there's this: "According to social psychologists women's "market value" declines steadily as they age, while men's tends to rise in step with their growing resources (that is, money and maturation)....Meanwhile, women's fertility is more or less fixed, yet they largely suppress it during their 20s -- their most fertile years -- only to have to beg, pray, borrow and pay to reclaim it in their 30s and 40s." Read: women have a worse chance of getting married the older they get because they're less appealing and have a harder time conceiving children at that age because they're less fertile. So the longer you wait the longer you'll likely have to.
- And then: "The best evaluations of early marriage note that 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." So it's not actually true that the younger you get married the more likely you'll get divorced.
- And finally: "Marriage is an unbelievably efficient arrangement and the best wealth-creating institution there is. Married people earn more, save more and build more wealth compared with people who are single or cohabiting. (Say what you will about the benefits of cohabitation, it's a categorically less stable arrangement, far more prone to division than marriage.) We can combine incomes while reducing expenses such as food, child care, electricity, gas and water usage." Meaning marrying young is actually very beneficial to your ultimate money, savings, and therefore stability.
I was with the guy at that point. With him meaning I'll agree that marrying young isn't all that bad and can work for people who are ready. I agreed that we over-value independence and undervalue commitment. I can certainly see how marrying young doesn't mean it will fail and how being marriad can actually make you more successful and stable. So fine -- I was thinking. Marriage isn't to be avoided. If the time is right, the time is right.
But theeeeen the article ended like this:
"So while many young Americans mark their days in the usual ways -- by hitting the clubs, incessantly checking Facebook, Twittering their latest love interest and obsessing about their poor job prospects or how to get into graduate school -- my applause goes out to those among them who've figured out that the proverb was right. One of those is Jennifer, a 23-year-old former student of mine. She's getting married this fall. It wasn't religion that made her do it. It wasn't fear of being alone. It was simply affection. She met Jake while still in college and decided that there was no point in barhopping through her 20s. Her friends balked. She stood firm. Now they're bridesmaids."
And with that it switched from an article about how marriage shouldn't be feared to an article about how girls who don't focus on it early will find themselves alone and wishing they'd spent less time in bars and more time on the old MRS. degree.
That's a different conversation -- one we'll have tomorrow.
Send comments and thoughts (20Nothings@gmail.com) for me to include.