It's all a matter of perspective.

Friday, September 20, 2002

This fascinating article By Frederica Mathewes-Green on NRO makes the argument that couples should get married younger. As someone who got married at 20, I have to totally agree with the author. Ms. J and I have been together for five and a half years and we get along swimmingly. (Except when we don’t) Mrs. Mathews-Green makes the point that couples marrying younger will reduce the number of illegitimate births, lower the teen pregnancy rate, and probably even lower the divorce rate. She makes credible arguments for each of these.

But don't young marriages tend to end in divorce? If we communicate to young people that we think they're inherently incompetent that will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, but it was not always the case. In fact, in the days when people married younger, divorce was much rarer. During the last half of the 20th century, as brides' age rose from 20 to 25, the divorce rate doubled. The trend toward older, and presumptively more mature, couples didn't result in stronger marriages. Marital durability has more to do with the expectations and support of surrounding society than with the partners' age.

A pattern of late marriage may actually increase the rate of divorce. During that initial decade of physical adulthood, young people may not be getting married, but they're still falling in love. They fall in love, and break up, and undergo terrible pain, but find that with time they get over it. They may do this many times. Gradually, they get used to it; they learn that they can give their hearts away, and take them back again; they learn to shield their hearts from access in the first place. They learn to approach a relationship with the goal of getting what they want, and keep their bags packed by the door. By the time they marry they may have had many opportunities to learn how to walk away from a promise. They've been training for divorce.

The catch is, and this is what Ms. J and I had going for us, it takes a lot of support to pull this off. That is the difference between these days and back when people used to get married younger. It seems now that most parents want their kids to wait until they are completely self-sufficient before getting married. Ms. J and I have had tons of support from both of our families, both of our families’ churches, our church, our friends, and God knows what all else. When Wylie was born, we had something like five baby showers thrown for us. When we got married, one room of our little house (Which was provided by my folks) was filled waist deep in gifts.

We have been blessed, but we look forward to the opportunity to bless others too. I think that Mrs. Mathewes-Green has it quite right. Take the plunge kids, you are responsible enough and adult enough to pull it off.

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