Editor’s note: In response to comments and feedback, the fifth point below has been edited by the author since the original posting.
If you are single, between the ages of 18-30, there are 2 nagging questions that live side by side deep in your mind; who will I marry, and when will it happen? As I write this, I understand the complexities of this subject, and I’m not presenting a one-size-fits-all scenario. Love and marriage are nuanced, delicate, even mysterious things, so please don’t misunderstand what I’m about to say. I’ll make this brief; I believe it is better to marry young. I’ve always thought this, but as I grow older, the reasons have crystallized. Here are 7 reasons that I think this way:
1. Statistics are in Your Favor
The online edition of the National Review published an article recently, titled “Time for Fresh Thinking on Early Marriage.” In it the authors Alan Hawkins & Betsy Vandenberghe site some interesting sources. According to the National Marriage Project, “The age at which men and women marry is now at historic heights—27 for women, and 29 for men—and is still climbing.” Yet the only demographic benefiting from this are highly educated college graduates. Busy as they are laying the foundation for their careers, marriage is delayed while they get 4 out of their 5 ducks in order: degree, career, finances, home. Only then will they add the 5th, marriage. This formula does work, but not for everyone. What about the other 2/3rds of young adults, who don’t attain a university or college degree? Society is busy talking to all young people as if everyone goes to college. Most do not. Quietly, while society and sociologists are looking the other way, many young adults are getting married. Gasp! They are the “young married” or “counter-cultural married”, and guess what? Their marriages are working. The article goes on to say, “Obviously, teenage marriage — about 20 percent of all first marriages, according to our analyses — poses a high risk of divorce. But once couples get into the 20s, the risk of divorce declines steadily (and then starts to go back up again in the 30s).” Their conclusion, from the data, was that the “sweet spot” of happiness and success for marriage was “between 22 and 25” years old. That’s the perfect window in my opinion.
2. You Get to Grow up Together
When you marry in your early or mid 20’s you are more adaptable than when you are older. Adult habits, good or bad, are usually formed during this time. Discovering new likes dislikes in the big new world is an adventure. The ability to adapt, as two worlds collide into one is so very important. The longer you wait, the larger the collision! It is a wonderful thing to experience all the firsts of adulthood with your greatest earthly love. I don’t think people fall in love, but rather grow in love. So why not start early? One thing every couple learns is that love is not just candlelight and soft music. Love is built upon a long and continual accumulation of the little things in life. Hard times and happy times, experienced together. First apartment, first car loan, first grocery shop, first flat tire, first New Year, first birthday away from our childhood home. It’s so much better when you face job searches, job losses, family deaths, family conflict, financial fears, and career concerns with a spouse. My wife and I were 19 and 24 respectively when we married, and as middle-aged adults, our experience in this world has been the same, both in joy and in sorrow. I love that we grew up together, and now we are growing old together. We’ve been together now longer than we were apart, with many more years to come, the Lord willing.
3. It Places Love and Family Before Career
“Degree, career, bank account, mortgage”. This is the mantra of 21st Century western society. “Make sure these things are in order before you get married.” Whoever came up with the idea that, until we’ve achieved a certain measure of stability and economic success, we shouldn’t get married, was probably single. It seems to make sense at first blush, but think about this fact, the most secular countries in the world (and the most financially successful), also have the highest divorce rates. In Europe, 2/3 people get divorced. Belgium has a whopping 70% divorce rate. We’re only a little better in North America at 52%. Yet in places like Chile, Columbia, South Africa, Brazil, the divorce rate averages 7.3%. Go figure. Countries with far less social and economic benefits have far less divorce. Whatever we may attribute this to, one thing is for certain, a good economic foundation is not the key to happiness.
Early marriage, as I see things, strikes the right note. It places the emphasis on the two things that will outlast our education, finances, and homes…love and family. The family is the key building-block to any stable society; not a 3 door garage, a hot tub, and world travel. I’m not suggesting that there is no forethought or planning that goes into marriage. Far from it. Counsel from a good Christian financial advisor, a solid budget, and living within your means, is very important. But please don’t think that until you have everything society is telling you you need, before you can get married. It’s not true.
4. It Creates an “us-identity”
When the Lord gave Eve to Adam, He said, “The two shall become one flesh”. I’ve already suggested that bringing two lives together in their 20’s is easier than their 30’s. It seems to softly mold an “us-identity” instead of trying to reshape a harder “me-identity”. In Genesis, the Lord did not leave Adam alone for long. Early on He said, “It is not good that man should be alone.” Soon after Adam’s creation, the Lord gave him a wife. He did not give Adam a lot of alone time to become self-focused (not that he would have before the fall, but you get my drift). What I’m trying to say is practically speaking, the longer “me” lives alone, the harder “us” becomes. In the “me” stage, we become so used to our own routine that we look for a spouse like we look for an accent lamp; something that perfectly coordinates my wallpaper, carpet, furniture, and drapes. In early marriage two softer “me’s” become one strengthened “us”. It’s beautiful.
5. It Increases the Odds of Children
Many times as a pastor, I’ve had to counsel couples who have been married for 5 or ten years, who can’t conceive. It is a very sad experience. Two people who love each other, who want children, but are not able now, when they might have been 10 years before. I don’t tell them this, obviously, but it is something I can say here. Now, let me be clear, sometimes this is no fault of their own. Some fertility problems are present genetically from birth, and there is nothing that can be done about it. Here is where adoption (for this reason and others), can be a wonderful thing, and a great testimony of the believer’s adoption of God by the finished work of Christ. My heart goes out to all those in just this situation. However, and this is a big however, some couples put off children so that they can concentrate more on their mortgage, careers, personal lifestyles, and hobbies. This is a sin, plain and simple. While procreation is not the only reason for marriage (companionship is the first thing mentioned in Genesis), it is a primary reason. At what age do you think a woman is most fertile? You guessed it, women are most fertile between the ages of 20 and 24 (Reproductive Aging, by Susan Bewley, William Ledger, Dimitrios Nikolaou). What if it will take you 5 or 10 years to get pregnant? Not everyone is equally fertile. Don’t be afraid to begin trying to have children as soon as you get married.
6. It Curbs the 1 Corinthians 7:9 Problem
Why was it not good for Adam to be alone? Was it an emotional need? Sure. A spiritual need? Perhaps on some level. But maybe, just maybe it was not good for Adam because he was a sexual being. Every other creature had a mate. They could all reproduce, except for Adam. Was he longing for emotional, spiritual, and sexual companionship? I think he was (sinlessly so). There was a longing in Adam that that could not be met apart from Eve. So God gave Adam a beautiful bride, early on, to be his lover, friend, and soul-mate. Since the fall, the desire has not gone away. Sadly, we have added to that pure desire, a sinful element that turns the desire for sex into unbridled lust. Early marriage curbs this in young adults. Paul writes of both males and females when he says in 1 Cor 7:9 “But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn.” In a rampant sexually charges society, early marriage will help fight against the many temptations of single life as an adult. I’ll leave it there.
7. It Honors God’s Creation Ordinance
We need to stop taking our cue from the world. Here I speak to parents also. We have been guilty of conforming to the world’s standards of marriage. The first gift God gave Adam was Eve, and the two of them, He gave each other in marriage. It was done early in creation, in history, not just for sexual and emotional reasons, but because from the very beginning, He wanted to display the love He has within His Triune Self. The perfect union between separate persons, with God, husband, and wife, making up a “threefold cord not quickly broken” (Eccl. 4:12). Most of all, it was the first picture in all the Bible of Christ and the Church. Ephesians 5:31 is a quotation of Genesis 2:24, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” Then Paul adds in verse 32: “This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” An early marriage, especially among believers, is a testimony of Christ’s love toward His people. What an image.
In saying all these things, I am keenly aware of many men and women who want nothing more than to marry. Yet the Lord has not provided for this desire. While I feel for them, I’m not speaking to them. I’m speaking to those who have been told, “you shouldn’t marry until…” If marriage is a creation ordinance, and I believe it is, and if we are old enough to take part in it, I believe we should. Whatever weaknesses we see within ourselves, and whatever fears we may have from deviating from social norms, let us plead for the Spirit’s help.
I want to be clear before we part ways: while marrying young can bring all the benefits outlined above, I’m not saying that getting married young always works. Nor am I saying that if you’re young and single, you need to quickly start looking for someone to marry! Like most things in life, this issue is complicated. The most important factor in a happy marriage is not age, but choosing the right person in the Lord (1 Cor. 7:39). The research above deals with statistical generalizations, and there are plenty of outliers that contradict it.
But once you’ve found the woman or man you can’t live without, and you have sought Godly counsel, you should absolutely feel confident in deciding to take on the rest of your lives side-by-side, and embark together on one of life’s greatest adventures, pleading for the Lord’s blessing.