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Women's Outreach and Resource Collective | A collaborative community for advocates of gender equity and social justice

Why Marrying Later Is Not The Worst Thing

By: Hannah Smith

Just in the three years since I graduated high school, an incredible amount of my peers have become engaged and some already married before completing college. I find it difficult to believe I’m the only one without any desire to be engaged any time in the near future, but it seems that way when there’s a new engagement notification waiting for me every time I visit Facebook. Most of us have an ideal age by which we plan to be married. People spend hours pouring into the, usually, unrealistic Pinterest boards filled with ideas for the future. Some have their wedding playlist arranged without even being in a relationship. If you’re familiar with the Beyoncé song “Flawless,” you’ve heard writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie say “Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most important.” If marriage at a young age is truly your personal desire, then by all means, feel free to partake in this commitment. But getting married out of obligation to one’s gender roles is not the way to a happy and fulfilling life.

While the average age of marriage is 27 for women and 29 for men, the median age for women in Georgia was 25.9 in 2013 with the age hiking up to 28 in more northern states, such as New York and Rhode Island. A 2013 report titled “Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America” from the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project concluded college-educated women largely benefit from marrying later. The director of the project, Brad Wilcox, stated “The new norm has very divergent impacts on different groups of people. The benefits of delayed marriage in America really vary by class.”

The main appeal to a marriage in a couples’ early twenties is the opportunity for a more successful attempt at childbearing. The twenties are a time when fertility peaks in most women. With the rising age of marriage, it’s more likely that a couple already has a child before they get married. Is that such a horrible situation? The couple will be more financially stable and have more economic security to provide for their child. For those who don’t have a child before marriage, there’s absolutely no guarantee a child won’t be possible at a later age. It’s more difficult for women to become pregnant with increasing age but definitely not impossible. Even if a woman finds herself unable to conceive, there are plenty of other ways to acquire a child. Don’t let the fear of not having children convince you marrying young is the only way to create your desired family. While more difficult, it is possible to obtain your desired outcome at an older age.

According to a study conducted by Clark University in 2012, 61% of 18 to 29-year-olds (both men and women) expect to give up some of their career goals in order to claim the family life they desire. While it is an improvement that the conclusion was equal among both genders, it’s disheartening to think a dream career is just that: a dream. If we’re just going to have to sacrifice our careers in the name of marriage, what’s the point in pursuing a degree if it’s just destined to be useless? No one should have to settle for anything less than their ultimate career goal. Marriage can wait. There’s nothing wrong with being a stay-at-home dad or mom if that is what the person truly desires, but assuming the role while suffering from an incredible lack of fulfillment is not what anyone wants.

Research Professor of Psychology Jeffrey Jensen Arnett also included that the study found young people to hold an incredibly unrealistic perception of what marriage entails, which goes along with the reason why 86% of the young adults surveyed expect their marriage to last a lifetime. He says “A lot of research that I and others have done has shown that [young people] have a very romantic view of marriage. And I think the thing about it that is troubling is that it’s a romantic ideal that is very difficult to sustain for a lifetime. I mean, everybody likes the feeling of being in love, it’s a wonderful thing. But whether you can sustain that for 50, 60 years is questionable.” Because these often unachievable expectations are created, the fault is associated with the partner rather than realizing the expectations established are unattainable. As a result, divorce is more likely among young people with the most common reason being they weren’t mature enough to select an appropriate partner.

While we are continuously reminded of the statistic about the divorce rate being 50%, in recent years, it has actually been dropping. A big part of this decrease is couples deciding to marry later in life. Feminists have also played their part, but you’ll have to follow the hyperlink to read about that one.

Say goodbye to that ideal marriage age you’ve established in your head. It will cause more harm than good. If you’re not married as soon as you graduate college, you’re part of the majority, even if it seems like everyone you’ve ever known is married or soon to be married. Don’t assume there’s a fault in yourself because you have no desire to be engaged or married right now. Those are the societal expectations talking. You may continue to create your dream wedding on Pinterest if you wish. And guess what? The longer you wait to get married, the more likely you’ll be able to afford the items on that board.

(Image via Flickr)


worcuga • January 11, 2015

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