Dear Mary Beth,
I’m wondering what you think about the recent crop of articles talking about why marrying young is the way to go. I kind of can’t stand to read them because I was totally game for finding someone to meet and marry in my early 20s, and now I’m about to turn 31 and it’s not as if I haven’t put myself out there and put time and energy into relationships…so part of me resents authors who say that it’s the good Christian thing to do…you kind of have to find someone to marry first.
—I haven’t met the right person yet
You know, there are times that you just have to remind yourself “They aren’t talking to me. It may seem like they’re talking to me, but they’re not.”
This is one of those times.
I’ve read those articles as well. I have found them fascinating. And they made me think about what life would have been like if I had married young. I’m intrigued by the idea of “starting out” in life with someone at your side, of growing into adulthood together, and of having a really long history together by the time you’re my age. I would have loved that.
But, like you, I didn’t meet the right person back then. Some awesome people, for sure, but none that I felt called to marry. So it wouldn’t have been so great.
These articles, it seems to me, are addressed primarily to two demographics. The first are the frequently-upwardly-mobile-and-ambitious young men and women who are told that they should delay marriage—that it’s something you don’t do until you have fulfilled all your career goals/made partner in the firm/hiked the Himalayas/done whatever it is you want to do. And so, when they meet the person that could be “the one,” they say “Great, but not yet. I’m only 30, and I’m not ‘ready” yet.” They may break up, letting “the one” become “the one that got away.” Or they may continue dating with no real intention to marry. They may move in together, they may even have children. But they don’t commit.
The second group I think of when I read those articles is those who have almost completely separated marriage and procreation. These are the women who date around, sleep around, get pregnant, give birth to and raise multiple children, all with seemingly no interest in marrying the fathers—or anyone else.
Those people need to learn a little bit about the benefits of young—and wisely discerned—marriage.
The thing is that, all other things being equal, young adulthood is really an excellent time to get married to the right person. But it’s a lousy time, as is any other time, to get married to the wrong person. There are good reasons not to get married. “I haven’t met the right person” is a good reason. So is “I feel God is calling me to do this other thing right now,” or “I recognize that I am legitimately not yet mature enough to marry, and I need to work on that.”
On the other hand, we have reasons like “I’m not even going to think about marriage until I’ve made my first million.” Or “Married? I’ve got 17 babies with 17 different baby-mamas. I can’t afford to get married with all of this money I’m paying in child support.” Or “Marriage would tie me down. And I want to be free . . . free!”
In the end, there’s only one good reason to get married—that you have found the person that you believe God is calling you to marry. That, of course, means involving God in the decision, which very few people do in this day and age.
When I was in my late 20s and “still” not married, a good friend of mine used to remind me, frequently, that I was “wasting my prime childbearing years.” And, on a purely biological level, I suppose you could say that was true. Today, he’s a grandfather and I’m a spinster aunt. And as much as I would love to have had a big family and to be surrounded by my children and grandchildren, I have no regrets. Because I believe I was doing what God was calling me to do in those years, and that in doing that, I was giving life. I was bringing spiritual life to the world, just as we all do when we are following His will.
So yes—all things being equal, it is probably better to marry young. You have children while you still have the energy to keep up with them, and you have the opportunity to create a life with your spouse from the start of your adult life.
But here’s the thing: God’s will trumps all of those other “things” that might have otherwise been equal.
So focus on that.
Do you have a question for Mary Beth Bonacci? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.