I get it. You’re working through graduation, landing a job, surviving an internship, and maybe living on your own for the first time.
But throughout all the chaos, someone inevitably brings up the topic of marriage. Maybe marriage is something you desperately long for, maybe it seems like a good idea for the future but not right now, or maybe you’re simply not interested.
So when is the “right” time to get married?
What’s the perfect timeline?
Is there a magic age when the stars align and everything falls into place in just the right way?
Well, I have good news and bad news. Good news first?
The good news: There is no perfect age for marriage.
That’s great, right? No right or wrong age to get married. No rule, no expiration date that says after a certain age you’re automatically no longer husband or wife material. And there is also freedom for marrying on the younger side as well, if that’s what happens.
The bad news? There is no perfect age for marriage.
There will never be a time when you are completely ready for marriage. The truth is that marriage is hard. It’s a daily putting off of the desire to put ourselves above the person we’re married to and a putting on of selflessness, patience, and love, however imperfect it may be. However, marriage is also wonderful. It’s companionship. It’s support when no one else is there. It’s someone knowing you better than you know yourself. It’s life with your best friend.
Marriage is a learning curve: No matter how old you are, both you and your new spouse are learning your new roles as husband and wife, and also learning how to live side-by-side with another imperfect human being.
Marriage changes you, but in the best way. You can start off feeling like you know exactly what you’re doing, but then months or years later you can look back and see just how much you have grown as a person through this special relationship and how you very much did not know what you were doing.
There are multiple pros and cons to marrying at different points of life.
My husband and I are 7 years apart in age, so I’ve seen both aspects of this within my own marriage alone, but I have also observed these differences in other couples I have been able to know.
Note: The term young is relative, so for the sake of clarity and simplicity, in this case I am defining it as being between the ages of 18-25, with later referring to any age older than that.
Marrying young presents its own unique challenges, but it also has its sweetness.
I was a month shy of 20 when I married my husband, and I was faced with logistical challenges right off the bat. I had never lived away from my childhood home, so I hadn’t previously needed to do things like shop around for electricity prices, be completely in charge of grocery trips, search for an apartment, change the address on my driver’s license, or even graduate from college. These are all relatively small things, but it was a learning curve for me, and this has been the case with other young wives I know as well.
There are other challenges marrying young can bring up, both emotionally and materially.
When you’re younger, you haven’t been in the world for as much time and you might be lacking some of the necessary maturity for a successful marriage or you may be still figuring out who you are and your goals for life. This is an important thing to discuss in-depth with your significant other to maximize communication and understanding. And who knows, marriage may completely change what you thought you wanted out of life.
Materially speaking, when you marry young finances are most likely going to be tight which can easily lead to tension and arguing, but only if you let it. I cannot overstate how key communication is here, no matter how old you are. Discuss concerns, be open about costs and spending, and help each other with accountability if you need to (which is always highly recommended!).
On the flip side, marrying young carries many good things with it.
The first and foremost wonderful thing about marrying young is you have that much more time with your spouse. You have more years together, more growth together, more memories, more support. As difficult as it was to manage moving across Texas, balance tight budgets, finish college, juggle full-time jobs, and hunt for other jobs in those first 2 years of marriage, my husband and I were in it together to support each other and grow together through it all, and we are so thankful we decided to go for it rather than wait until we got all of our ducks in a row.
Another wonderful aspect of marrying young is the ability to have children at an earlier age, have more time with them, and have greater flexibility for spacing them out. You also have the option of having more years on the front-end of children with just you and your spouse or you could get started early. Either way, there is less pressure in that area with an early marriage.
Later marriage is currently the more popular choice for multiple reasons, but in the same way early marriage has its own pros and cons, marrying later in life does too.
First of all, you’ve done all of the basic tasks of life before. You’ve lived on your own for some amount of time, you’ve set up your own electricity, you’ve managed a full budget, you’ve set up a credit card, and you’ve bought a house or rented an apartment. Marriage at this point of life doesn’t involve learning how to do these things, which can be helpful since you will still have to learn how to function in your role as a husband or wife.
You are probably also more stable in your career and perhaps more financially flexible, leading to less strain on the marriage as far as making the funds stretch go. However, as I said before, this can still be seen as a con if communication is lacking.
Additionally, you have lived in the world longer than if you had married young, and so you’re probably more confident in who you are as a person and have clearer goals and desires, whether it may be regarding your career or your future family. You’ve been through more, good or bad, and you’ve had the opportunity to grow as a person because of it, bringing a higher level of maturity to the marriage. I am able to see these benefits in my own husband’s situation, and he has encouraged me in these areas as well.
There are also some challenges that come with marrying at a later point.
Perhaps the most difficult struggle is the need to fit marriage, children, and a career within a shorter amount of time. The window for starting a family after marriage is narrower, giving you and your new spouse less time with just the two of you in those early years and providing you with less flexibility in spacing between your children as well. You are trying to adjust to marriage and parenting at home, and then as a spouse and parent at work as well.
Additionally, with more years without your spouse, that also means fewer years you will have together. Of course, we don’t have a say in when we will meet our future spouse, but if the opportunity arises, waiting until a later point in time takes away from the years you have with them being husband and wife.
The End of the Line
Each scenario has its own difficulties and risks, but both provide wonderful benefits, and in the end, no matter how long or short it is, you have had a life with your spouse. You have grown with them, cherished them, and loved them, albeit imperfectly. As you contemplate marriage in these early years of your life, know that whichever path you end up traveling on—early marriage or otherwise—know this: Marriage is hard but incredibly worth it.
Written by Alexandria Garcia.