Why I will tell my daughter NOT to get married at age 19 (even though I did)
Before I fully dive in to this post, I feel the need to make a few things abundantly clear
- I am happily married and have been since June 2005
- My intention with this post isn’t to make those with less happy or failed marriages feel bad
- I am not intending to be a hypocrite
- I would tell my son the same thing and for the same reasons (I have a daughter, but not a son right now).
When The Husband and I got engaged in August of 2004, I had just turned 19 and he was still 18. It was a few weeks before we started college. We got married a couple of weeks before my 20th birthday. I recognize that we are the exception to what often happens to people who get married that young nowadays.
I believe that marriage isn’t something to be entered in to lightly, but with MUCH thought, prayer, planning (not just the wedding), discussion, consideration, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Getting married young was the right decision for us. I’m thankful that we made this decision. I would more than likely do it again if I had the chance. With that said, I could NEVER encourage anyone to make such a decision. Especially not my own child.
Here’s why I will tell my daughter why she should NOT get married as young as her father and I did:
- You’re probably not mature enough. In our culture, the institution of marriage is for adults. Yes, you’re considered an adult by law at age 18. However, physiologically and psychologically you are still an adolescent. Your brain probably hasn’t finished developing and won’t do so for several more years. Your priorities, mindset, values, and temperament (among other things) aren’t fully developed. If you fail to grow with your spouse you will certainly grow apart. This is true at any age, but as we get older our development slows. We still grow and change as people, but these changes come less rapidly and often build on patterns that were established in adolescence/early adulthood rather than sprouting up brand new.
- It probably won’t last. By getting married so young, I believe you’re putting yourself at a disadvantage because of your lack of life experience. When you get married young, there are many things that you give up: dating, new relationships, fully dictating your own schedule, being able to spend your money freely (because it affects at least one other person), to name a few. You often don’t have the same experiences as your peers. There are times when you feel left out. The grass may even start to look greener on the other side. For these and a myriad of other reasons, people who get married young decide, even after being married for years, that they no longer want to be with their spouse.
- The odds are against you. Almost a majority of marriages in the United States end in divorce. I admit that getting married older is no guarantee that your marriage will have longevity, but waiting affords you more time to get to know yourself better and to vet potential spouses. At the beginning of our marriage, we were friends with four other couples who were married the same year we were. Of those four couples only one (yes ONE, 1, uno, 1 in 4, 25%) of those couples are still married almost a decade later. [**UPDATE**: That number is now zero. Zero of our friends who we were friends with at the beginning of our marriage who were married the same year as us are together almost 12 years later. We’re the only ones. There was one couple who we were close to when we first got married who were married the previous year. They’re still together.] All of those couples were young with one sometimes both of the spouses aged 25 or under. I also know many other couples who were married young and are now divorced. Some are even on their second marriage and they haven’t even turned 30 yet. Some of the marriages lasted only a few months, others a few years, others many years. In several cases the marriage ended because of one or both of the spouses deciding that they wanted to be with another person. Some ended because, after a time, the spouses grew apart and didn’t like the person their spouse had become. A few ended because of issues specific to that couple that couldn’t be mended. My point is this: There are a lot of people who thought at the time they were responsible/mature/in love/whatever enough to make their marriage work. There are a lot of people who went in to marriage thinking that it would last forever and it didn’t. I could write an analysis on why, but the more important take away message is that whatever opinion that you have of yourself, your potential future spouse, and the two of you of a couple is moot. It’s what you actually DO (or fail to do) in your marriage that determines its longevity.
- Your faith in God doesn’t matter. That sounds completely heretical, I know, but what I mean is that being a Christian, attending church, serving in the ministry doesn’t mean that you will have a long and happy marriage. Most of the people who I referenced above believed in God and attended church. I know lots of people serving in various capacities of ministry who are divorced (and a few re-married). Your faith most certainly can and will help you to become the spouse that God designed you to be, but many believers make the mistake of thinking that believing in God, attending church, serving in ministry, etc. exempts them from having to work on their relationship with their spouse.
- You should take time to get to know different kinds of people in a dating/romantic context. I alluded to this in an earlier point, but once you get married your dating life is over (or at least it should be). Dating as an adult is much different from dating as a teenager. If you’re going to be in one relationship for the rest of your life, you better make sure that it really is who you want to be with. Pick your spouse based on more than what you have in common and how they look. Do you have compatible personalities? Can you live with their annoying habits? Can you live with their less than desirable traits? Don’t think that you’ll be able to change them.
- You should take the time to develop as a person before you become one with someone else. Marriage is a union between two people. When you get married, you become one with that person on several levels. It’s easy for your identity to become wrapped up in that one person and in your position as a spouse and eventually as a parent. It would be a shame to wake up one day and realize that you don’t really know yourself or haven’t really developed your own skills and talents.
- Marriage has its challenges even under the best of circumstances. Marriage can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it’s not without its challenges. The Apostle Paul used the phrase, “I die daily,” to describe the development of his faith in Jesus Christ, but I think that this phrase can also be applied to marriage. The number, type, and intensity of the challenges depends largely on how one chooses to respond in different situations. If one isn’t willing to ‘die,’ that is, lay down his/her own preferences for the sake of preserving the relationship, marriage will be very difficult. You’ll be in a world of hurt if you lack the maturity and social skills to navigate the challenges.
- Everything I said can most likely be applied to your potential spouse also. There are things that you need to make sure that you have established in your own heart, but having things established for yourself does little good if the person that you intend to marry is a hot mess. You may be ready to get married, but the person that you are wanting to marry isn’t ready and may not even be marriage material.
I may sound like a Debbie Downer, but I couldn’t care less. I’ve seen way too much heartache come out of young people who were married sooner than they should have been. I’ve cried and prayed with too many of my friends who were barely out of high school or barely into adulthood and felt like they were starting their lives all over again. I can’t encourage others to go down this path when I see that for many it is a path that can lead to destruction. I acknowledge that the divorce rate is high regardless of age. I recognize that people can and do get divorced after many years of marriage. All things considered, I feel that the better choice for most people is to wait to get married, make sure they’re choosing the right spouse, go through extensive pre-marriage counseling (even as an exclusive dating couple), and get married when they’re truly ready and not just because it’s the cool thing to do.