Young Marriage

Emily and Ryan

Emily and I on our wedding day. We were 23 and 25; some friends thought that was really young and some wondered why we took so long.
Copyright Emily and Ryan

Every once in a while, an article shows up promoting getting married young – by which I mean usually 18-20, not young in the historical sense when many societies got married right after puberty. There are usually two main reasons given behind this promotion:

You Get To Have Sex

Reason 1 often given for young marriage is that you get to have sex without breaking your church’s rules on sex. It is obviously true that late marriage plus abstinence can be a serious physical challenge, so a solution is to move up marriage to as close after puberty as possible, thus minimizing the time in between. You can insert the biblical citation here about being better to marry than burn with lust, if you’d like.

To answer this one quickly, getting married to have sex is a very bad reason to get married. That marriage will not last. It’s good to want to have sex with the person you’re going to marry. It is not good for your marriage to be based on your wanting to have sex. A good sex life can definitely help a marriage, but it isn’t strong enough to sustain a marriage. Sex should be a representation of your love – love being the commitment to seek the best for the other – not something trying to overcome the fact you really aren’t a good fit or you’re really not that committed. That’s about as many ways as I can say that.

Maturity

This argument is only slightly more complex. Our generation (Millenials) are in many ways less mature for our age than prior generations. A usual symbol of adulthood is marriage. Therefore, become an adult by getting married.

First, a tangent on whether our generation really is that much less mature than our predecessors. In some ways, we probably are, but in other ways I think it is purely different rather than less. For example, we can sometimes be called entitled because we want to upgrade our smartphones every two years (say $800) and pay a steep monthly fee (say $60) for them. Yet at the same time, our generation is abandoning owning cars, something our parents generation would have found ridiculous to go without. Is it really more entitled to spend $1000 a year on a phone that is for many of us an essential business tool, or to spend $10,000 a year on a car*? We could make similar comparisons about expectations of living space, or social consciousness in where we buy our food and clothes, or willingness to question harmful authority, etc.

Back to the main point: the problem here, in my opinion, is that there is an assumption that marriage is a magic fix for immaturity. Marriage definitely will help you grow up, at least if you are doing it right. There is no other relationship, other than perhaps having children, that has that kind of mutual sacrificial love. But, like having sex won’t suddenly make your life perfect, being married won’t suddenly solve any areas of immaturity in your life.

Where I can sympathize with this sentiment is that making an official commitment is often very beneficial to a relationship. Like believer’s baptism is for Christians in their relationship with God, marriage can be for a romantic couple. Having that formalized and public commitment – whether through a church or legal channels or something else – is a powerful thing. I am a strong supporter of the marriage covenant… when you are ready as a couple to enter that covenant. If you aren’t really ready, it isn’t going to make you ready.

I imagine somebody will say, “are you ever really ready?” Of course you aren’t perfect and never will be. I don’t suggest waiting on marriage until absolutely everything in your life is solved. One I particularly don’t understand is waiting until you’re completely financially stable on your own. What’s the point? Everything else being equal, that seems harder to me. You were already set on certain ways of spending and now you have to renegotiate it all. Plus, two incomes and shared expenses is always going to be better than one. Being ready isn’t about being perfect, no, but you still have to reach a point where you can confidently say those vows. Don’t get up there and say you’re committed for life if you haven’t thought about it.

In short, if you have issues with Millenial (and younger) maturity, encouraging us to get married won’t fix that. Not being married for some may be a symptom of immaturity, but even for that minority, sticking a bandaid on that symptom isn’t going to fix the real problem, just going to allow our critics to avoid looking at it … until it gets worse, which it probably will for those who aren’t ready.


 

*Yes, average total cost of ownership for one car in Canada is $10,000. Average salary in Canada is $50,000. Average Millenial salary would presumably be less than that since we’re in the entry jobs, so the assumption of owning a car is the assumption of dumping 25% of our income into it.

Ryan Robinson

It is easiest to identify Ryan as both theologian and tech guy. By day, Ryan is a Technical Consultant work with PeaceWorks Technology Solutions. There, he works on websites, CRMs, and SharePoint implementations. Along with blogging here, Ryan is a founding member of the MennoNerds blogging network and a contributor to the book A Living Alternative.