Is It Better to Marry Young?


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.


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  1. Michael-369664 June 8, 2016 Reply

    I think marriage is very tough for Catholics today since we are probably the only religion that asks us to discern this step before we do it. It’s very hard to live an authentic Catholic life in a society where religion is an afterthought for many, even for many Catholics, and premarital sex, abortion, divorce are normal.
    At 60 I think my generation was about the last one with a 2 parent family, and extended family. Today most kids don’t see nuclearl families or healthy marriages. Try finding a girl who is chaste and a virgin under 25 or 30. It’s rare I’m sure. As you age up, you find fewer prospects and too many you can’t get involved with.
    If you want to be married as a Catholic, go to a Catholic college and date a lot. Wish I had known to do that.
    It’s the only realistic way to find the best pool of prospects at the right time. Don’t fall for materialism like my generation did. It ruined many lives.

  2. Katie-1104095 July 31, 2014 Reply

    I’ve never been married, and I’m 21 and so maybe I’m not yet experienced enough to comment but…I agree with this article. People need to know that getting married is a good thing versus the alternative, and the alternative is ALL people my age and younger are hearing about. Marriage, we must be reminded, is actually GOOD. And I do think that if God is involved, once one is of marrying age, that it will be a fruitful marriage even if the couple is young. As long as they are mature and acting on God’s Will they are on the right path whether it brings them to singlehood or marriage. I think some people are called to do different things at different times, so some might be called to be single, and some might be called to be married, and they might be called to be so at different times in their life and so no two situations are exactly alike and the norm is not the ‘norm’, but rather what God Wills. There is no ideal marriage age but that which God chooses for each individual person and how soon that person involves Him is what I think. Either way, no marriage can last without God and be a fruitful one. God is Love.

  3. Joshua-889064 February 10, 2014 Reply

    Just to clarify, I am 22, so I am speaking from a position of less experience and probably more ignorance. I know that age doesnt matter as much for guys, especially if we keep in good health and shape and can run around with young kids in our late 40s, but I just cant imagine the emotional pain that people who have been searching for 15-20-25 or more years have gone through, seeing all of their friends get married, and probably their semi constant good natured, but still painful, inquiries about whether you have or are close to finding someone. I’ll admit, the prospect of spending the next 1,2,3 decades of my life without new core family of my own scares me a little. I guess mainly because I have always followed the stereotype (right or wrong) that if you want a big family, you need to start young. I am not despairing, or depressed, I am often the person laughing or being light hearted in the room, but I wont deny the pain of being alone, even though my search only really started around 20 years old. In summary, can some one on here be kind of enough to suggest ways that they coped with it, to further strengthen my current position of not being depressed from it, or point me to an article on here that talks about it?

  4. Veronica-994230 November 20, 2013 Reply

    That article hit a chord with me as well. I’m almost 36, and have only had a few relationships/dates. And I have an 11 yr old because I “sinned” but he may be my only one. But I tried to be as good a Catholic as possible thinking that would get me a husband; but that’s foolish because things don’t work that way! I put SO much pressure on myself because I haven’t found “the one” during my youthful years. But if someone can find love in their golden years maybe I need to be more patient and optimistic. Don’t mean to be a downer on here.

  5. Kathy-730470 November 19, 2013 Reply

    Interesting enough after I read this piece I read an article from the news where I live about two older people who got married on the week-end. They were both 83 years of age. Carol was never married before. George was married for 61 years and was a widow. Carol and George were in grade 1 together and in a play in grade three where George kissed Carol. They kept in touch and when George became a widow he came back to where he lived and connected with Carol. They fell in love and were married. George said to Carol we were always good friends so why don’t we spend the rest of our days together. I think that is a wonderful story. Carol said there was a time that she thought she was to live the rest of her life alone but I guess it wasn’t meant to be that way. Sooooo love can find you at any age. Never lose hope 🙂

  6. Julie-917308 November 19, 2013 Reply

    People have made comments about having children before you’re too old–one woman said, “I wanted to have my kids early and done by age 30. 35 is too old to have children.” I’m 35 and this hit me in the gut. The woman did not know my age and she meant nothing mean by it, but it still hurt. My take on this article is that Mary Beth is not advocating any one age as the right age for marriage. Instead, she is advocating finding and marrying the right person, irrespective of age, and that finding the right person happens when we follow God’s will. I do not like it when men in their thirties or older explicitly state in their profiles that they are looking for a woman in her twenties because they want large families. This sounds like they are searching for a brood mare. It is up to God, not us, and trying to force our will generally ends in disappointment and heartbreak. Do I want to be married? Yes. But God, in His wisdom, has said “Not yet.” Do I hope that “yet” comes soon–of course! However, let not my will, but God’s will be done. Growth comes through acceptance and opening one’s eyes to the wisdom in His will.

  7. Marisa-1021020 November 19, 2013 Reply

    I don’t agree with this article at all. I don’t think there is a specific time in one’s life to get married or not get married. I believe many factors play a role in finding the right spouse and being in a position to afford a life together. It is becoming a trend that more people are getting married initially in their early to mid-thirties. But I’m sure that it is not abnormal to see a couple marry during mid-life or later. Also, if the argument that couples should marry young, then is there a possibility that couples marry too young? Is a couple marrying in their teen years considered unnatural or undesirable? If there is such thing as too old, there must be such thing as too young, and if so, then only a small percentage of hopeful couples should marry at a desired age. It is unorthodox to think that only couples within a certain age group would have better marriages than those outside of that group.

    I feel marriage occurs when a couple is mature in their relationship, financially stable to afford a lifestyle together, preferably settled in a steady career, and obviously in love.

    I also don’t think it’s wrong to pray for a spouse. I feel as though it expresses a hope to find a mutual companion to spend your life with, no matter what age.

  8. Kathy-730470 November 19, 2013 Reply

    Faith do not be anxious. Everyone is unique and special. It does not matter if you are young or older when you get married. The main thing is to have God in your decision to marry and then in your marriage. I know many people who were married for the first time in their 30’s. They would have liked to be married earlier but they just did not find their spouse until later. They are happy. So do not be discouraged. God bless.

  9. Faith-1027282 November 19, 2013 Reply

    Good article but just not for me. Rather than encourage me it upset me I’m 29 so it make me anxious

  10. Ann-69118 November 18, 2013 Reply

    For some of us marrying young is no longer an option. I think either or can be good it depends on the maturity of both parties and their willingness and effort to compromise and make the necessary sacrifices that marriage would require.

  11. Anita-471998 November 18, 2013 Reply

    Lovely piece Mary Beth, i’m 31, I wish I had married young too and I have met some awesome people but none i felt marriage for. Its a good thing that you don’t have regrets.. I feel the most significant part of my christian life is that I figure out only in retrospection.. Its never clear there n then if I’m following my own will or God’s or like you once mentioned… our own will sprinkled with holy water.. :)We must pray and discern and I m certain if doubts are our weakness, Our Good Lord will not let a good thing go by because of our weakness.. He will make his will clear and certain..

    I don’t know where I got this theory from but I always thought God would expect a huge sacrifice out of me in the choice of my life partner and I was so scared even thinking.. Sorta like Abraham’s sacrifice of his son… So midst fears its always difficult to discerns Gods will…
    But we walk by faith not by sight…

    “there’s only one good reason to get married—that you have found the person that you believe God is calling you to marry” Gives me consolation and courage…
    Thank you and God bless you all..

  12. Kathy-730470 November 18, 2013 Reply

    Theresa you are missing the point completely. There is nothing too small or too big that cannot be resolved by praying. I believe that you should pray about everything and leave it all to God. God hears all our prayers and they are always answered. They may not be answered the way we think they should but they are answered the way God knows is best for us. Make fun if you will……

  13. Theresa-110510 November 18, 2013 Reply

    Pray to God to send us a spouse? I think He has bigger concerns on His plate don’t you think? I think a lot of people make the mistake of letting a good one go because they don’t feel the big ‘this is the one’ from God; and that they also make the mistake of not making the first move themselves for that same reason.

    Don’t you think that He expects us to take responsibility for decisions we make in our lives; and for our parishes to help us in the day to day living of our faith .. like in the days of the early Christians? (non Catholic Christian churches do so for their parishioners.) They all lived in community and I’m sure married up amongst the people they met and knew through that community. We are supposed to marry when we are young if not called to religious life as we are commanded to ‘go forth and multiply.’ As well, if we are not supposed to indulge sexually with anyone outside of marriage, I think I can speak for many in saying that waiting years and years is only going to lead us to sin!

    According to this thinking I suppose I should pray to God as to what I should make for dinner tonight; and not eat until I hear His booming voice from the sky.

    • Kim-611999 February 12, 2014 Reply

      Theresa–what do you say then to the person who would have liked to marry young, but it did not happen? I always imagined myself married by the time I was 24 and have 4-6 kids. I am 38 and still waiting. I am frustrated by those who assume I pushed marriage back for this reason or that reason….I have tried in many, many ways to find a spouse since I was 18 years old. I have recently begun praying for a spouse–because, like you I felt it was inappropriate to do so. I am also praying for discernment in the fact that I have felt I was called to marriage and family since I was very young–but now I question that I may have misunderstood what I thought He called me for–for over 25 years…

    • Andrew-1008566 November 4, 2015 Reply

      I realize this is coming rather late, but:

      1. “I think [God] has bigger concerns on His plate, don’t you think?”–Seriously? What bigger concern could God possibly have about my life than “Who am I going to marry?” (or “Am I called to something besides marriage?”). This is not at all a similar question to “What should I make for dinner tonight?”. And God is certainly capable of taking care of all of us at once, so we should place our trust in him.

      2. There is nothing about praying to God for a spouse that implies that you do not also take action to find an appropriate spouse, and to marry them if you think that you have found the right person. However, God’s command to “Go forth and multiply” just means that we should be open to children once we are married. God does not expect any of us to marry young if it means marrying someone that we don’t love, just to bring children into the world. And when I say love, I mean Christ-like, self-sacrificial love, not just feelings, so anyone who isn’t willing to make sacrifices for his or her spouse isn’t ready to get married.

  14. Kathy-730470 November 17, 2013 Reply

    I think the most important point of Mary Beth’s piece is not necessarily what age you get married but that you involve God in your decision. God must be the center of your marriage as well. The latest trend according to Mary Beth is to marry young when you have the energy and time for women ( a good number of year left on their biological clock to have children). However, as she states just because you might want to be married young it may not happen for whatever reason even if you pray for a spouse. Maybe God’s answer to your prayer is not yet. The most important message I believe is to pray and if you do and God is in the center of your life everything will work out as it should whether you get married young, in your older years or not.

  15. William-607613 November 17, 2013 Reply

    I tend to side with Mike-174335 on this.

    Clearly, the search for a spouse has to involve a lot of prayer, so I don’t think one can generalize about different age groups.

    I would point out here that I think we make a mistake of looking at older generations and thinking, “If they were married by a particular age, then I should be as well.” I think this is an enormous mistake, because I think there are enormous differences in maturity levels between people in their early twenties 50 years ago and people in their early twenties today. And without question, there are enormous differences in the levels of economic security 50 years ago and the levels of economic security today. Both are important factors that have to be considered before taking that big step.

  16. Jean-884977 November 17, 2013 Reply

    I agree with Kathy. If we are truly living out our Faith, then we must pray to God for a good spouse. It is our responsibility. I know my parents did that but I wonder why they never told me. I got married at 19 and did not understand what marriage wasthen but I certainly do now. You have made me realize just now at age 61 that all of my previous almost picks were not blessed by God. I have prayed and wil continue to pray for the man that I am attracted to and that I can be crazy about and will be my helpmate to get to heaven. I know that the 54 day Rosary Novena is good for that as I have heard a story about a young woman who prayed to Our Lady for a husband. She described him with very much detail. About a year later she met her future husband and they got married. So there is hope for us ladies. Just make God the center and have Our Lady and St. Joseph intercede for us on their behalf.

  17. Mike-174335 November 17, 2013 Reply

    this sounds like nonsense. i’d like to know the divorce rates for couples who married “young” vs those who married later in life. i don’t believe that most people really know what/whom they want for the rest of their life until about the age of 28 or so.

    • Mariella-959684 March 11, 2014 Reply

      I totally agree with this comment. I live in South America, where marrying young is pretty much the norm. I’m 26 and by now, most of my friends, co workers and classmates are married. Its frustrating, because once you’re over 25 people; your parents, extended family, even the taxi drivers, seem to want to know why you aren’t planning your wedding. However, I’ve seen so many of my friend’s marriages breakup because they were too young. They chose someone who they were inlove with at 18 and a few years later they realized that they married the wrong person, and its their children that suffer the consequences. I honestly wouldn’t recommed marriage until you’re in your late twenties, once you’ve finished your carrer and have a clear picture of who you are and what you want to do with your life.

  18. Kathy-730470 November 17, 2013 Reply

    I enjoyed reading your piece Mary Beth. For me it strikes a cord. I was married, divorced and now annulled. I have 5 children. I always knew from a very young age that I would marry and have children. The question for me when when and to whom. I was married at 26. I had dated my ex husband for 2 and a half years before marrying him. I got married with the intention of staying married. We were married in a Catholic church as we were both Catholic. I was married relatively young by today’s standards and was able to have all of my children so even though my biological clock was ticking. While reading your article this is what struck me the most…..”.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.”
    That is a powerful statement but one that is very very true. When I got married I was Catholic. I went to church, wanted to be married to a Catholic and wanted to be married in a Catholic church. However, what I didn’t do is pray for a spouse or pray and ask God if whom I was marrying was the right man for me. This is where I failed. I should of have done that but at the time I honestly didn’t know enough to. My mother who attended a Catholic university told me years later that the nuns would always say to them you need to pray to God to find a good spouse. I think my mother must have done that because my parents have been married for many years. Since my divorce I have learned the value of prayer and agree very much with your thoughts.God should be involved in your decision to marry and each and every other decision in your life as well.

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