Hold That ‘I Do’: The Case Against Marrying Young


The average American bride walks down the aisle for the first time at age 25, while the average groom says “I do” at age 27, but one Catholic writer believes these numbers should not be higher, but lower.

In a recent blog post for the National Catholic Register, writer Pat Archbold, a husband and father of five, argues Catholics should encourage their children to marry young. “The more time they spend finding themselves,” Archbold writes, “the lesser likelihood that there will be anything worth finding.”

He continues:

“Many Catholics, like society at large, encourage their children to postpone marriage. Go to college. Get a job. Get financially stable. Date around. Find out who you are first, then consider marriage. Problem is, by the time you do all these things to find out who YOU are, the one things you can count on who you are is ‘not married.’ This is why people now do not get married until they are in their late 20s, if at all. By then, society has messed them up so much by a decade of self-centeredness that they will probably make lousy spouses.”

This article negates the intangible, life-changing, spiritually-enriching moments that can only be found within singlehood. Archbold’s belief that singlehood only conjures selfishness and narcissism is a baseless notion that is simply refuted by the vast array of single Catholics on CatholicMatch who have accepted their singlehood and embraced the many opportunities available to them to enhance their personal development and enrich their faith life.

Archbold says that Catholics should “encourage our young people to find themselves in marriage,” but how about finding themselves within an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ?

The notion of finding oneself within another discounts the sacredness of our individuality and the unique impact each of us are called to make in this world. No one can deny that others teach us valuable lessons, help us grow and encourage us to live a life of honor, but when did it ever become acceptable to define one’s self by any relationship, even a marriage?

Beyond the emotional side of things, there are also practical factors to consider. If you marry later in life, you’re more likely to be secure in your career, free of college debt and more confident in what you’re looking for in a spouse. Dating experiences can be painful or downright humorous, but they’re also necessary to determine what works for you and what doesn’t.

And get this: According to the National Center for Health Statistics, about 60 percent of couples who marry between 20 and 25 are destined for divorce.

Personally, I take pride in the strides that I have made as a single Catholic. While it would have been easier to experience the highs and lows of life with a husband at my side, I have been forced to live life self-sufficiently. I am responsible for my well-being, my career, my happiness and my faith life. I recognize that I alone must discover who I am and who God has called me to be before I can fully give myself to another in a balanced, life-giving marriage.

Mr. Archbold may disagree, but my years as a single Catholic woman are teaching me how to be a better daughter, a better friend, a better human being and ultimately, a better wife. Marrying young should not be a mandate – the only mandate I follow is the gentle tug of the Holy Spirit, who reassures me every day that every season has a holy purpose, even if we don’t always understand.

So, CatholicMatchers, do you agree or disagree with Archbold? What are the pros and cons of marrying young?



  1. Joseph-266633 October 30, 2011 Reply

    I disagree with Archbold for the reason that you state in your article: “If you marry later in life, you’re more likely to be secure in your career, free of college debt…”

    Specifically the college debt portion of this statement. When I graduated from Grad School in 2006 I had $121,000 in student loans. However, through intense focus and dedication to financial freedom, I’ve reduced my total debt to $42,000. My plan is to pay that balance off in the next 16 – 18 months. I couldn’t imagine seriously dating and trying to find a spouse while I owed $121,000. That would be totally unfair for both me and my potential future bride. So I’m with you, Jessica – good article.

  2. Onyinye-730484 July 19, 2011 Reply

    I actually disagree with the notion of marrying early and the statement that “The more time they spend finding themselves,” Archbold writes, “the lesser likelihood that there will be anything worth finding.”
    I’m 30yrs old and not married and sincerely grateful for this time and phase in my life.
    Being married is a ‘forever thing’ or so the church intends for it to be and so I think there should be no hurry. Not to say that taking your time is actually a guarantee that everything will work out perfectly but I will not trade the past years in which I’ve been able to achieve a lot, academically, spiritually and even morally for any other time. If we lived in a perfect world and our spouses were guaranteed to be perfect people, then whatever age a person gets married at will not matter, but because we can not over look the fact that times are changing and even though a lot of our parents got married earlier, the challenges of being married in these times have greatly increased.
    We grapple with a lot more issues now and even the responsibility of raising children in these times is a lot more- Societal issues, Financial issues and even Moral issues abound even more greatly, unfortunately, even as we get more advanced and modernized.
    I really do believe that marriage requires a lot of commitment and is not an institution for children. A lot of maturity and sense of responsibility is required which on the other hand does not necessarily come with age but can be acquired over time. So time spent for self-growth and discovery and advancement, in my own view is not any way ‘wasted or idle time’ and should be greatly valued and taken advantage of until we are ready to get into the commitment of marriage.
    Further more, skills, experiences and growth attained over the period of singleness in our lives could and should be put into use for the better survival of the marriage.

  3. Amanda-744751 July 17, 2011 Reply

    I believe that getting married young is a terrible idea. I did, and as we both matured what we needed in life became extremely different. That being said, my mother married a 50 yr old bachelor, and 5 years later he is still so “independent” that he has trouble truly being her husband (not roommate). So, I think the best analogy is that of a peach. If you pick it too early (shelf ripened), it cannot fulfill all that God intends it to be; however, if you wait too long it is also very limited in the function it can serve.
    This age is different for everyone, but as a general guideline I do not think people should get married and start families until at least one of them has the education/training to have a career that can support a family. As for the comments about selfishly small families, I do not think your family size should exceed either spouse’s ability to financially support the family independently should something happen to their spouse.

  4. David-629572 July 14, 2011 Reply

    The argument that Catholics should marry young in order to avoid a decade (or more) of unabashed self-centeredness is, quite simply, a straw man. Is this the only conceivable way for a twenty-or-thirty-something Catholic to spend the years in between college graduation and the altar? The author rightly maintains that it is not.

    The “traditional” approach to marriage in most cultures, if one is to speak very broadly, is for it to happen once the couple has financial security, which has historically been a responsibility of the husband. Today, in the most Western countries at least, this is no longer something that falls only on the shoulders of the man. Still, I think there is real wisdom in waiting until the couple does have some degree of financial independence and security, especially given the state of the economy. What I see with many (not all) of these early-marriage advocates is a “shoot first, ask questions later” attitude, that things will all work out in the end if you just make the leap. To me, this seems irresponsible.

    In Jane Austen’s day, if we are going to talk about “traditional” arrangements, it was not only frowned upon, but regarded as actually shameful for a couple to marry before they were “established”. I think the notion that love will conquer all and that a blind leap of faith is all that is necessary is really a Romantic notion, one that Austen herself probably had some sympathy for, but which I would take with a grain of salt.

  5. Tesa-671012 July 9, 2011 Reply

    Unfortunately, the “self-sufficiency” the author is so proud to possess is a protestant notion. Catholics are supposed to be connected to one another, family, and Church. Relying on Christ is not self-sufficiency. Pat Archbold is so correct in his conclusion that most young people who go through college become corrupted by the world’s agenda—even most “Catholic” institutions of higher learning teach things that are diametrically opposed to Church teachings, even dogma. If the singles on Catholic Match were so secure and accepting of their singleness, why are they on the site? It is because they want to be fulfilled in a marriage, which is one means by which people work out their salvation and encourage each other to get to heaven. The other reason for marriage is the procreative aspect. How many of these worldly educated young buy into the nonsense that small families are what God intended, to limit the number of children intentionally for selfish reasons, or opt not to beget offspring at all? God did not intend for “man to be alone.” Being single is not a sin, but you do a disservice to all when you encourage young people to “find themselves.” We find ourselfs only when we are doing God’s will, praying faithfully every day, dedicating our lives to Him, and ignoring the “wisdom” of the world, part of which is to get in touch with one’s self.

  6. Patrick-606389 July 6, 2011 Reply

    In Defense of Archbold,

    I think it is important to note that his comments are not in any manner disparaging a single persons walk with Christ. He prefaced his position on the increasing influence that the world has upon one’s decision to get married — not on singleness. In fact, it is quite clear to me that he encouraging young people to have a relationship in Christ and that is the the foundation for a marriage. His comments are not directed at single person journey with Christ, but rather the increasing practice of self service and self satisfaction, that he believes even the Church is begining to allow influence marriage choices. Not just ‘live a little,’ but go ahead and live for self. I bet if asked, “Should I pursue my walk with Christ first or should I get married?” He would look at you askance and say, “Certainly pursue Christ first and since marriage is created, ordained, and mirrored by Christ’s relationship to the Church — there is no reason why it is not possible to do both. But if you choose to be single, and pursue God — by all means do so. In that pursuit, I hope you will do what the world is calling upon single people to do — and seek merely a life of self satisfaction — for that choice is not conducive to a successful marriage — as marriage while beautiful, comforting, joyful, exhilierating . . . is mostly about giving over of oneself to another person as Christ gave himself for his bride.”

    Frankly, I am a bit tired of the croaning about, God has called me to be single . . . when in fact, Christ’s hope was that all of us would be single — that is such a distortion of what Christ says. As though being single is a unique calling — well according to scripture, that is Christ’s call to all believers. With the added caveat, that he ststes this is a hard saying (because we are people who still operate in our flesh) — get married if you want to. Choice upon, choice upon, choice. Single people need to grow up and stop behaving as though God is preventing them from getting married — “My calling is to be single . . . sigh.” Just an excuse for some hard truths: Who I am has not: invited another person to marry me. Who I am has really been so rigid, that I am unwilling to break to my will to make room for another person to be my spouse. Now the Apostle Paul (Christ: does say, that some are eunichs by choice, some are eunichs by made so by men, and some are made eunichs by God. Now I personally believe that God’s grace will sustain those who are called to be eunichs by God — and that is a life of joy . . . because provides his joy in that call as it is his will ——

    But if you are wrestling with your flesh, dream about so and so, hunger logn for and crave human companionship as to a Holy Union ——- make the choice to get married. Thsi choice is more honoest, more conducive to God’s will than all of this self protective analysis about, “ohh my single vocation . . . .yada, yada, yada. I am single because of my choices and noe of those choices are sinful — they are choices. Now unless God is actually telling a person to do this or that — then there are choices and those choices are not sinful, they are not anything but choices. Mr. Archbold, is encouraging children rooted in Christ, seek a life of giving, and marriage is a perfect model for the person who’s first love is Christ.

    • Patrick-606389 July 6, 2011 Reply

      his line: I hope you will do what the world is calling upon single people to do — and seek merely a life of self satisfaction

      Should read: I hope you will not do what the world is calling upon single people to do — and seek merely a life of self satisfaction

  7. Mari-611004 July 6, 2011 Reply

    My Mom was almost 21 years old while my Dad was 26 when they get married. I didn’t break the record because I’m almost 38. I’ve been a member of NBSB- No Boyfriend Since Birth.

    And my Mom doesn’t want me to have boyfriend yet until I get finish with school because she’s afraid I might get married without finishing my degree, plus I come from a not-so-financially-stable kind of family. Although it’s not a must to help my family get through it, I still do it out of love for them.

    Then I started working. Then I started applying for work here in US…Time passes so quickly.

    The reason I didn’t get married early is Priority.

    But I have no regrets.

    I know that God has prepared me and equipped me with what I need to venture into next chapter of my life- hopefully as a married person. I have grown as a person spiritually, emotionally, mentally- in all aspects of my life, and with that I’m really grateful to HIM.

    I know God will lead me to that dream in His own perfect time!

  8. Amy-717794 July 6, 2011 Reply

    I agree WHOLEHEARTEDLY with Archbold!!!!!!!!!! And again I say WHOLEHEARTEDLY. My parents married young and are still married, my dad’s parents married very young and never parted. There is mix of both in our family, with mixed results and I still say this. I married late (age 33) and am now annulled and on this website……… anyway bygones are bygones but a big ingredient in the failure of our ‘marriage’ was ourselves being set in our ways.

  9. Joyce-674124 July 6, 2011 Reply

    Ok, I see the point of the person who wrote the article on marrying early, BUT, some are ready for marriage early and some are not, and it all depends upon meeting the right person. I am a single Catholic woman in my 40’s and dont desire to be single, however I had a very serious physically illness for 20 years. I am basically cured now, and eager to move on with my life and marry. However for years my life was on ‘surviving’ through each day. I am learning to trust and hope that God still has a marriage partner for me. The article can be very hurtful to many through no fault of their own, haven’t married or married later in life. We all have individual stories……I know my illness has developed me character and I am a very very loving and compasionate person and I pray everyday that my sufferings and sadness over not having a husband and children will help those who have had abortions to seek God’s mercy. jr

  10. Mary-732729 July 5, 2011 Reply

    I both agree and disagree to this article. Being married young does help your development, but if you can’t find a person who could qualify as a spouse, what do you do? God is in charge of your life and if you are not married by 21, it is not your fault. Everything is according to God and all you can do is learn and grow in your circumstances, either with your spouse or while waiting.

    • Mary-732729 July 5, 2011 Reply

      Also, I must point out that we are not in the Victorian times when most people thought a lady lost her bloom at 21 and was destined to be an old maid!

Post a comment