I recently received a question by a reader asking why Dan and I decided to get married young, especially considering that we aren’t done with school yet.
To answer that question, there is a short answer: Love.
But, there was a lot more that went into our decision. So, here’s the long story…
Dan is 21, which made him five years younger than the median age at first marriage for men in the state of Kansas and seven years younger than the national median. I am 20, which made me five years younger than the median age at first marriage for women in the state of Kansas and six years younger than the national median. Basically, we got married at significantly younger ages than most people.
Apparently, Dan and I also got married at younger ages than most people think other people should get married.
I know this because common responses to our engagement announcement included: Why don’t you finish school first? Why don’t you start a career first? Why don’t you do fill-in-the-blank first?
I also got all the statistics about how getting married young leads to divorce. But, it’s important to consider the source… In reality, getting married at age 16 or 17 is more likely to lead to divorce. However, according to research by the University of Texas and Penn State University, marriages that begin after age 20 are not nearly as likely to end in divorce as is widely believed.
And — brace yourself — there are even benefits to getting married young.
In an opinion piece for the Washington Post, author Mark Regnerus put it pretty well when he said, “We learn marriage, just as we learn language, and to the teachable, some lessons just come easier earlier in life.”
Because Dan and I are young, neither of us have very firmly set habits and routines. For example, I don’t pitch crazy fits if he puts the mugs in the wrong cabinet and he doesn’t freak out if I fold t-shirts wrong. We are growing and learning together.
In terms of maturity, I believe the adage that “age is more than a number.” There are some 35-year-olds who would be ill-equipped for marriage. We just happen to be 20- and 21-year-olds who are willing to take on the challenge that is marriage.
Not to say that we are better or worse than anyone, we just know ourselves and we have had the chance to be individuals.
Additionally, we’ve been through a lot together and we know what we want out of the future. We also know we don’t want the “freedom” to explore other relationships. We’ve been there already and it’s not half as good as what we have going on.
However, I actually think that author Bella DePaulo, who writes about the science of being single, is right in one aspect: “Most single people are already happy, and getting married typically does not change that.”
Dan and I were happy on our own. We are even happier together. Most importantly, we love making each other happy.
As for the fact that we are both in school, we perceive that as a benefit right now. We are on the same page in terms of going to school, having homework and cheering for the teams. If we had waited for me to graduate next year, he would still be in school working on his pharmacy degree. I would also be transitioning to a job, which would add another layer of stress.
Naturally, the downside is that we don’t have piles of money, but we do have the self-discipline and the ability to make it through.
Personally, I think many people have a large stigma against getting married young for reasons they cannot even identify. Maybe they think it’s important to make a statement against the MRS degree. Maybe they’ve seen marriages end in divorce and are just scared. Maybe they are waiting for some brilliant epiphany to come along later and tell them “the time is right.”
To be completely honest, I’ve been there. I used to subconsciously judge people who got married young and I probably would have judged the version of me that I now see.
But, when Dan and I talked about getting married, none of these things were important. All that mattered was — and will always be — that I get to spend my life with Dan.
From my point of view, getting married young just means more years of love.