Thursday, July 05, 2012

Marry at 25

The median age of marriage in the USA is older than as it ever has been - 26+ for women, 28+ for men.  But the age of coupling - including cohabitation with children - seems to be about the same as it has always been - when you are done school and beginning adult life.  When that is varies by class - about 19 or 20 for the less educated majority, and about 23 or 24 for the more educated minority.

Young people seem to be putting off marriage because they think that they need to be fully ready for adult life first.  I think this is an impossible ideal.  Moreover, it shows a misunderstanding of one of the foundations of a strong marriage: our commitment to each other, and to the institution of marriage, helps us become adults together.

At the same time, research on marital satisfaction shows that the happiest marriages tend to come from couples who marry in their mid-20s.  And this is also the age that most young people and most parents of young people regard as the most desirable age for marriage. 

Life leads to many compromises with our abstract ideals, of course, and most of the time these compromises work out.

Nonetheless, I am led to a radical idea for a social norm: plan to marry at 25 (give or take a year). This allows most people to make a good start at adult life, without setting an impossibly high ideal for being "ready."

Your mileage may vary, of course.  But I believe that planning to marry at 25 would be a good norm for most people to plan around.


Brendan said...

Thank you for the advice.

John said...

My only suggestion is that potential mates should take a couples class of which there are several. Some are secular. Others are based on a particular religious tradition. All should start asking some of the hard questions like how many kids, what religious upbringing if any will be followed, how will finances be handled, etc.

Gruntled said...

John: I entirely agree. I volunteer my class as one option.

Alex said...

I have counseled many couples in pre-marital sessions and highly recommend the work of John Gottman.

Diane M said...

I'm not sure how different your advice is from what's happening. Women's average age of first marriage is 26, not much more than 25. Men's average age at first marriage is higher, but women often prefer a man who is a few (not a lot, just 4-6) years older than them.

Diane M said...

A few more thoughts:

Could it be that people who marry in the mid-20s have the happiest marriages because they are also people who have a good education and get decent jobs?

Could people now be getting together in their mid-20s and living together before marrying at 26?

Gruntled said...

Many educated people wait until much later to marry. The average marriage age for college graduates is actually even higher. But people who wait until their 30s to marry are not happier than those who marry in their mid-20s.