Recently announced: The engagement of Miley Cyrus, age 19, to Liam Helmsworth, age 22. There is much speculation in the media about the significance of their ages and the general question of “How young is too young to get married?” Given the rise of divorce in the United States, there has been a relatively recent trend to delay or avoid getting married out of fear of falling prey to divorce. The statistics for avoiding marriage are alarming; According to the Pew Research Center, barely 50% of the United States population is married. Also, currently, the age of marriage is at an all time high; age 26.5 years of age for women, and 28.5 years of age for men. Many couples now prefer living together over making a formal marriage commitment. Marriage experts ask us that instead of fearing marriage, waiting too long and substituting cohabitation for marriage, why not get married young? Why not get married at 19 and 22?
If we look at rates of marriage up until 1960, 59% of the young adults in the 18-29 age group were married, compared with just 20% of this age group today (Pew Research Center). If we take out the past twenty years of statistical data on marriage, Miley and Liam are right on track!
19 may seem young to us today, but it’s not. What we call “children” are biologically adult by the time we are between 14-16. That doesn’t mean we should get married at 14 or 16. Our culture, with it’s unprecedented safety and prosperity have allowed for the creation of new stages of development. We created the stage of “adolescence” and we have created an even newer category of delayed adulthood called “young adulthood” where the “child” goes off to college, delaying adult responsibilities until as long as 26 years old.
Getting married at a so-called “young” age can lead to positive, perhaps unintended, results for society. Throughout history we see that number of marriages in a country contribute to the stability of a society. In general, the more marriages, the more stable and the less marriages the less stable the society. Being in a committed marriage can also prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Cervical cancer is one of the top killers of older women. According to the CDC, in 2008 a little over 4,000 women died from cervical cancer, (CDC.gov). Cervical cancer is one cancer that is preventable, because the main way the cancer develops is through the spread of the HPV virus, which is a sexually transmitted disease.
We are biologically adult by the end of puberty (around age 14-16), and it is incredibly challenging to delay the basic biological drive for sexual intimacy for so long. (Remember the movie “40 Year Old Virgin?”) It is normal and natural to seek life long partnership in the late teens and early twenties. If women are honest, how many go to colleges looking for “Mr. Right” rather than a Bachelors degree? The answer is many! By the time a woman is 22 years old, she begins to wonder “Will I ever meet someone to marry?” “Will I always be alone?” “Will I ever have children?” These questions and thoughts are normal and natural for young women.
While getting married in the late teens and early twenties is healthy and natural, pre-marital counseling is always a good idea before tying the knot. Sometimes we desire to get married for unhealthy reasons. Here are some things to watch out for when looking at getting married:
1.) Why do I want to get married? Is it to escape a bad situation? Or, do I truly love and desire to partner with someone else?
2.) Is he or she pushing me to marry them? Do you feel rushed into it? Sometimes this occurs because someone doesn’t want you to know them very well before tying the knot.
3.) Do I believe I am making a good and sound decision? Some doubts are normal, but excessive doubts are a sign to re-evaluate your decision.
If you are planning to get married look for a counselor that uses the Prepare and Enrich premarital test as it assesses 12 core compatibilities for couples. This can help get a lot of questions answered about your partner and work through some of your differences before you get married and increase the risk of ’til death do us part!
According to Marriage and Family expert Dr. Dobson, we should go into marriage with our eyes wide open, and go through the marriage with our eyes half shut.
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Author: Laura Bravo, MA, LMHC, NCC | Licensed Counselor & Marriage Coach