Is marriage in your 20s a good idea, or are you wasting the most formative years of your adult life?
by Emily Starbuck Gerson
It’s happening. My peers are getting hitched and pregnant left and right. I am 23. I am not okay with this.
A boy I had a brief mission trip romance with in middle school just had a baby this summer with his wife. In October, I will witness one of my best friends since elementary school get married. An elementary school friend got married last year and popped out a baby a few months ago. The boy who took me to his senior prom, who I was always fond of but who wouldn’t date me because I wasn’t Catholic, just got married (to a Catholic girl). All these people are my age or one year older, but now there is a round of engagements happening among my younger friends. A high school friend who’s 22 is already married.
I know that back in the day people got married when they were 15, but they also only lived to 45. Now that the average lifespan is around 80, why on earth are people in their very early 20s clamoring to commit to someone for life? It only makes sense if they’re the “no-sex-’til-marriage” type, and I don’t think I’m friends with any of those. It can’t be the legal benefits. Is it the sparkly ring?
Okay, disclaimer: My mom has been engaged four times and married thrice. My dad has been married three times. My parents divorced when I was in the fifth grade, and I watched my mom go through another divorce. I’ve definitely seen my fair share of messy relationships, and I don’t have the confidence that marriage is forever.
Sure, I’d love to get married one day if it feels right, but why on earth would I do that now? Yes, I’ve been with my boyfriend for three years, and we very well may tie the knot eventually, but there is no reason why I need to make such a life-altering, important, supposedly permanent decision when I am so young and still learning so much about myself. I’m also poor. I want to do a ton of traveling before I really settle down. I’d love to live in the United Kingdom for a few years, if not forever.
If I am going to get engaged:
- I want to have lived with that person for at least a year to make sure we don’t drive each other mad.
- I want to make sure we are on the same page financially.
- I want to make sure we are at peace with our religious views, or lack of them.
- I want to make sure we feel the same way about having kids, or not having them.
- I want to make sure we are both mature enough to keep our commitments to each other.
I see friends getting married who aren’t financially independent or haven’t been with that person very long, and it just boggles my mind. If you meet the mortality rate, you may be with this person for SIXTY years. Would it really kill you to wait a few more years, grow up a little, experience the real world a bit longer and make sure this is really the right decision? I’ve read statistics that the younger you get married, the more likely you are to get divorced. Duh!
Last year that the U.S. divorce rate has actually dropped thanks to people marrying smarter. Less folks are marrying young, and more people are living together before getting hitched. I’m not sure how many of my peers are going this route. Despite having many friends who aren’t even in a relationship, every day on Facebook there’s a new person announcing their engagement or marriage. But perhaps if this was 50 years ago, I’d be the only person in my social circle not married. I’m just grateful my boyfriend is not in a rush to get married, either—his mom has also been divorced three times, and I think he’s more afraid of marriage than I am. It would be pretty awful to be with someone who wanted to get married way before you did.
I understand the point of getting married, I just don’t understand the point in doing it so young. We are still learning so much about ourselves. Life is a journey, but I think you change the most in your 20s; this is when we really figure ourselves out. That’s not to say “don’t enjoy a great relationship,” but what’s with all this urgency to get so serious? I feel like most of the people I know getting married or engaged are so young and not possibly mature enough for such a drastic decision. It seems like they’re playing house rather than really getting married. I know I need at least a few more years to really figure out what I want from life before I exchange vows.
Are you equally freaked out as you watch all your peers get hitched, or am I just a paranoid child of divorce?