Poll: Is There a Right Age To Get Married?

Over at the New York Times, a young woman named Julia wrote in to ask readers of the Motherlode blog whether they thought that, at 25 (she’s 23 now), she’d be too young to get married. The question was prompted by her mother, who, says Julia, is adamantly against her daughter getting married at what she thinks is such a young age.

Listen — I’m not going to hold back here, even if it may undercut the integrity of my otherwise very scientific poll. Once a person is of the legal age of consent (which, frankly, I might be inclined to lower if I had the power…but that’s another post for another day) I absolutely do not think that there is a “right” or “wrong” age to get married. I think this because I do not know everyone in the world, and that means that I do not know what’s best for everyone in the world. In fact, let me take that one step further — I do not know what’s best for anyone besides myself. And neither does anyone else.

All these articles about when to get married and when not to get married are nothing more than speculation, and often, people presuming to apply their own experiences to others. And it doesn’t work. Logical people should know that it doesn’t work. Yet there is no dearth of unsolicited, ill-informed marital advice…if only you look hard enough. Sometimes, I’ll grant you, the “advice” is backed with data. But it’s data that generalizes, and rarely takes into account the many factors that lead relationships to fail.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I love data, and I think that looking at marital trends and gathering information about people and knowing what the fuck is going on in the world is very valuable. But no data can tell you what to do with your life, and no other person can, either (once you’re an adult). Not even — sorry, Julia — your mom.

So, now that you know what I think, do you disagree? I welcome a lively discussion about this topic. And answers to my poll.

Sorry! This poll is now closed.

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    • Eileen

      I’m torn, and here’s why. On principle, I agree with you – I’ve known some couples who got married very young and were totally happy. But as a general rule, I think that in the West, at least, under twenty-four or twenty-five is probably too young. For one thing, the brain isn’t finished developing until about that age. For another thing, we live in a culture that is prolonging youth – most of us won’t be established as independent adults until our mid-twenties. Finally, for better or for worse, the teens and early twenties are mostly a period when people realize what they actually want from a relationship and learn to prioritize the things that will matter to them most throughout their lives, whatever those may be. I think most teenagers, for example, have at some point pulled a Jay Gatsby/Scarlett O’Hara and fallen in love with the image they’ve projected onto a partner. Is maturity a case-by-case thing? Yes. But I think the appropriate age is about the same for most people.

      • Jo

        I mostly agree with Eileen. As a 21 year old, I think that what we “know” we “want” at a young age may seem concrete at a certain place in time but can be very fleeting. I am always amazed by how much I change with every year (or even every 6 months or so) as a person. I think that even if I felt confident that I could be with my boyfriend (who is 23), as we are now, for the rest of my life, I have no idea how I will change as a person, let alone how he will. While I can only hope that our personal growth is along the same path, I can’t guarantee it. Of course, I am speaking from personal experience, and while it is not necessarily applicable to everyone else’s life, I’d have to imagine that most people change considerably during their younger years. Of course, I still think that it is a personal decision that everyone has the right to make, but if one of my friends was thinking of getting married early, I’d probably advise her against it. What’s the rush?

    • Miss Lissy

      I’m 20 and I’m about to get married and I’m absolutely ready for it. However, I recognize that not everyone is ready at that age. However, people seem destined to tell me I’m too young even though I am doing a lot of things that people my age don’t do until their older already. So I think it should go on a case to case basis. We are prolonging adolescence, like the commenter above said, but I don’t belong to that – I’m breaking away from it and I am already an adult.

    • lotusflwr

      You’re going to run into marital problems sooner or later, no matter what age you are or how ready you are or aren’t. If I was giving advice to a friend, I’d focus more on whether or not they knew themselves and their significant other well enough to take the plunge. Age has very little to do with that — there are some very put together 18 year olds and some really fucked up 50-somethings.

      • annie

        i agree with lotusflwr here. successful relationships have nothing to do with age, but have everything to do with the persons who are in them and how they handle their differences and their challenges along the way. if two people are meant to be together and are right for each other and can grow and compromise together, it doesn’t matter if they are 22 or 37 before getting married. it really is about knowing yourself and knowing your partner.

    • Somnilee

      Personally, I don’t think there is. If my boyfriend popped the question right now (19), then I would say ‘Yes’, though I’d hold off the wedding for at least until we’d finished our degrees. For myself, I’d like to get married somewhere around 23-25, that gives me time to settle in and maybe pop out a couple of babies before I’m 30.
      My best friend thinks I am an idiot, because her parents ‘didn’t even start dating until they were 27′, i.e, any age younger than that is too soon to get married.

      My mother, on the other hand, was going to get married at 18, but her sister (closest to a maternal figure) told her to wait until she was 20, then she could still marry my father if she chose – they got married when she was 21. She says that looking back on it, she wouldn’t have done it so soon, but I guess it was different because he was in the army…

      So yeah, I guess everyone knows when is ‘right’ for them, and it really isn’t anyone else’s place to tell them otherwise.

    • Claire

      I think it has a lot less to do with age and more to do with where you are in your life and what you can handle. Are you ready to be legally and financially responsible for another person (and I’m not talking just men here, this works both ways)? Could you handle it if that person became seriously ill? Some people may be able to do this at 18 and others may not be able to do it at 30. It’s so completely relative.

    • Meg

      I don’t think there really is a wrong age, although its kind of a bummer if you’re too young to drink at your own wedding & did you ever see that episode of Golden Girls where Sophia gets married again? Cutest old lady bride I’ve ever seen, and its good to know you can still fall in love at say age 90.

    • Charley

      I got married young (19) and it didn’t work. At that point in our lives we were just playing house and it seemed like the whole situation snow-balled. One minute I’m graduating high school, the next I’ve been married three years, own a home and have relatives asking when I’ll be having children. It was less conscious decisions on the part of my husband and I, and more just being pushed along the path and following the norm.

      Needless to say we amicable divorced and went our own – completely opposite – paths. We spoke once after the divorce and have never seen each other since.

      Point is, everything has to be done on a case-by-case basis, but looking back I know that I was not ready to be married at 19 (regardless of what I thought I knew then) and I will strongly urge my daughter (born from my second marriage, many years later) to get some life experience under her belt before she decides to tie the knot.

    • Hannah

      I’m 22 and I got married less than a fortnight ago.

      We’ve also known each other for six years and lived together for four of them. We have compatible life goals, are financially responsible and support each other when the going gets tough. We’ve talked about the possibility of having children in the future, what would happen if one of us was injured/fell ill, and what will happen if/when one of us gets a job that requires moving. We’re both dedicated to our own lives and careers, we work hard and we refuse to define ourselves solely by our relationship, but we care enough about each other to want to take the next step.

      That being said, we both moved away from our small hometown as soon as we could. I know people from school who got engaged three months after first meeting the other person, and got married because they felt that they ‘had’ to. A few kids later and they’re wondering what happened to their life.

      It might just be a matter of motive. If you get married young because you feel like you ‘have’ to, or because you don’t see any other option, of because you just want a white dress and a party, then that’s probably going to end badly. If you get married young because you genuinely love and care about the other person and are willing to work at the relationship, then that’s a different story.

      But yeah, each to their own :-)