Getting married young: Rebelling against society?

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.

Question: What do you think?

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14 responses to “Getting married young: Rebelling against society?

  • Gen

    aaww I think that this post was awesome!!! 😀

  • Stephanie

    I love it! My mom was 20 and my dad was 22 when my parents got married, and they will be married for 30 years this February! Who says getting married young means divorce? They had their problems and worked it out, just like any marriage. Y’all are too cute together and I have no doubt you will continue to make each other happy!

  • Kristin

    I know you, Em, and it doesn’t surprise you did your homework! I really appreciate all of the research that doesn’t go against your decision to get married young- so many people think they know what people are saying about certain statistics, when in reality, they have no idea. More importantly, I believe you and Dan are equally mature and faithful people and I have no doubt that God has an amazing story planned for you two. Thanks for always inspiring me!

  • Stephanie

    My parents were 21 and 23 when they got married. They’re celebrating 40 years on 10/9. I figure, if you’re ready and you’re happy, why not? The trick to a good marriage is communication.

  • Lucy Glover

    God joined you two together at His appointed time. You two are perfect for each other. We got married young for societies standards and are so glad we did. I wouldn’t change a thing about us or you and Dan.

  • Emily Moore

    Totally agree Emily. You definitely did more research than Nate and I did in terms of average age of marriage. We are working on year 2 and we couldn’t be more happy! Enjoy every moment of it!

  • Erin

    I really like this post, and I agree with you. I would say though, that while getting married young does mean more years of love….you don’t necessarily have to be married to be in love. You can spend years dating, loving each other and growing, and you can know that you want to spend your life with that person, but not necessarily be married. Just from my point of view. I think you can start your life with someone and marriage doesn’t have to be the beginning, but is a milestone in that relationship. A committed relationship doesn’t necessarily begin with marriage. To each his/her own, and I think there’s a right time for each person. I know people with all different ages of marriages, and there’s a lot more than age that goes into whether the marriage will be successful (which you know of course). I love that you did your research, you’re definitely a journalist! Haha I wish you and Dan all the best (although I know you don’t need the wishing!). What’s important is that you did what’s right for you and that you are happy. =) Ok, now I’m done with my novel of a post. I hope school and the Kansan are going well!

    • pursuitofhealthfulness

      Good point, Erin. You’re relationship with Steven is certainly proof of that!

      What I mostly mean by this post is that it’s ok to get married young. On the other hand, it’s ok NOT to get married young — people who are together until their late 20s aren’t doing anything wrong. It’s just a choice that people can make on their own!

      Congratulations on your upcoming wedding. You’ll be stunning! I’m excited for you and to see all the pictures afterward!

  • Jenn

    Totally getting married at age 20, which is another reason I love this blog, I can relate so much 🙂 We’re getting married in a small town in Kansas too! Anyways, I have already gotten all the “are you sure your ready? aren’t you going to wait till you’re done with school?” People are just now starting to get it that I am confident and SURE, and they are more accepting now, but it was hard to hear. I think it’s just when you know, you know. Did your parents agree at first when you first told them you were getting married at 20? Just curious.

  • Jess

    I totally support you. As a 21 year old myself who would marry my long term boyfriend tomorrow, I don’t think it is anything to frown upon. More years of love is an amazing thing:)

    What is holding us back (and will for a while) is the financial situation…we aren’t ready to completely support ourselves. My parents still help out a lot (as do his), and he is going to medical school so it will be a while! haha.

    Also, I LOVE that picture at the beginning of the post.

  • truepenny

    “Getting married young just means more years of love.” Love that!

    I just got married at age 23, and my husband (the same age) is still in teacher’s college, so I got a lot of the same questions. I found it strange because lots of 20-somethings live together and no one bats an eye. My family knew me and my husband were planning our lives together, they knew we were living together, and they knew neither of us had stable careers or a huge amount of savings. But for some reason once we threw a marriage certificate into the equation it was a whole other story! They came around quickly though!

    Yes, houses, cars and children are expensive, but just because you get married doesn’t mean you can’t wait a few years for those bigger expenses. And just because you’re not married doesn’t mean you don’t have those expenses!

    Not to be unromantic, but there are lots of benefits to getting married. I can be on my husband’s health insurance through his school. I can apply for his EU citizenship and live anywhere in Europe, opening up many more opportunities. Tax cuts. Better bursaries at school. So comparied to my other 20-something, still-in-school, low-income friends living with their significant others but are unmarried, we’re actually saving money!

    But ultimately, yes, love is the reason! 😉

    End rant.

  • manhattanite

    I agree with everything you are saying, except the the part about habits or routines.
    I guess the post made it seem like anyone getting married at an older age has always lived alone with his or her cats. You don’t have to be married to live together. It is possible to get married “older” and still not be “set” in your ways.

  • Rachel

    This is such a great post – I totally agree with it and you have a great writing style.
    My hubby and I got married when we were 19 and 20 and we got all the ‘don’t you think you should wait a few years’ comments too.
    To be honest getting married young was hard for us…we basically had to grow up together and the first year was a steep learning curve.
    However I’ve never wished that we’d waited and now things are great! Because we’ve been together the whole of our adult lives we share so much, our plans for the future are the same and our expectations are the same. I know that’s not necessarily because we got married young but it just feels like we didn’t have the chance to get into so many self-centered bad habits which often happens when you live alone.

    Love the photos of you together!

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