When it comes to marriage, the sooner the better, advises John Van Epp in this month’s issue of U.S. Catholic, which focused on young people. The author married young — the summer before his senior year. He and his wife had little money and a small apartment, but he doesn’t regret not becoming “established” before taking his love down the aisle.
“Thirty years later, my wife and I are still thankful that we made the decision to grow up together through our 20s,” he said.
However, many singles today are seeking to establish themselves before considering marriage, and statistics discourage younger marriages. Van Epp points to sociologists in a recent (unattributed) Wall Street Journal article who said early marriage is the No. 1 predictor of divorce. Yikes! Older singles seeking mates have advantages like better career opportunities and the wisdom to pick a well-suited partner.
However, not all the advice for happiness in marriage stacks on the side of waiting until one’s older, Van Epp adds. He argues that the “early marriages” leading to high divorce rates are teen marriages, not marriages of those in their early 20s. There’s little statistical difference for those who marry between 21 and 30, according to a 2002 study by Bringham Young professor Tim B. Heaton, Van Epp writes.
And those waiting for marriage might actually be worse off, he adds:
For instance, waiting to get married often leads to more premarital sex, premarital cohabitation, and premarital births, which are all associated with higher rates of marital instability. In addition, there is a smaller selection pool as you reach your early 30s (by age 30, 75 percent of the population are married). At that point, the chances of achieving a quality relationship lower because of the difficulty with finding a suitable partner.
These risks are often overlooked because of a prevalent attitude today that is quite dangerous and misleading: What you experience in one relationship has no bearing on what will happen in a subsequent relationship. You could call this “relationship compartmentalization,” where each relationship occurs in its own compartment without any effect on another.
Van Epp argues that society needs to change its stance on marrying in its 20s. Several of my friends married immediately after college, and it’s obvious that as they’ve matured and discovered more about who they are and what they want from life, that they are sharing a vision together.
I know that I (and many of my late 20-something single friends) have matured and shaped a worldview alone in many respects, and this has caused friction in dating relationships. Already, we seem pretty stuck in our ways.
Yet I wasn’t ready to marry right out of college, and the kind of guy I would have chosen then is different than who I’d choose now.
Comments on the online version of the U.S. Catholic story range from staunch agreement to hearty rebuttal.
Some couples described their “early marriages” and proudly post how many happy years they’ve been together. “I am glad of our youth when we married because it gave us time we might not have had otherwise,” writes an anonymous poster.
Conversely, another post reads, “We were 25 and 31 when we married and both very glad that we did not marry our college sweethearts.”
Another commenter asks about debt, which also increases divorce risk. How can young married couples avoid significant loans, especially for college?
The most recent comment takes a neutral stance: “There is no better time than any other to get married. The important thing is that the couple are committed to each other and understand what they are doing. If they decide, for whatever reason, to spend their lives together, maybe raise a family and never marry, who cares? Not God, I’m sure of that.”
So, Catholic singles: When do you think is the best time to get married? Younger, older, anytime? What brings you to CatholicMatch at this point in your life?