My parents got married at 26. This was actually at the time (1970) fairly old to get married. My mom told me once that she didn’t feel most people should get married much younger than that because you change so much in your early twenties. Apparently our society now totally agrees.
In the mid sixties nearly 60% of adults aged 18-29 were married. That number is now 20% and dropping. That is an insane change. Now there are a lot of reasons for this. And there are a lot of implications as well. I’ve said some about that before and will say more later but for today I want to focus on a different question. When are you ready to get married?
I’ve heard the “ready” comment a lot in my years of singleness. Some people use it as an excuse to deal with their commitment issues. “I’m just not ready to get married.” Now I think that it is indeed good to not get married if you don’t want to. What isn’t so good is dating a bunch of people and then never being able to be committed to them. Really if you aren’t ready – should you be in long term relationships as an adult?
This leads us to yet another very relevant question. What is an adult? Apparently in 1960 it was 18. But these days there are people that say you’re an adolescent until 26. Which seems to back up my mom’s thoughts. But 26? Really?!
The world has definitely changed in many, many ways. Some for the better and others not, but I really believe in this context it leads to a lot of confusion. For one thing we are asking Christian guys to basically forgo sex during their prime sex years (not that guys don’t pretty much always desire sex). Hey 15 year old kid, “don’t worry, only 11-15 more years to go. Good luck.”
Should you get married for sex? Well maybe. Not just for that obviously, but I think it’s an underrated reason.
There are all sorts of arguments here. There are indeed statistics that say the older you get married the less likely you are to get divorced and I can see that. You hopefully know more of who you are as a person etc. But that assumes you are actually working on that and not just extending adolescence.
And let’s be honest the older you get the smaller pools you “fish” in. That’s reality. And if you aren’t dating just to date then how do you stay sharp with your dating skills which you actually sort of need to get married?
There are advantages to getting married earlier. For one thing you get to be married longer. You get to start out in life together. But the truth of the matter is that in our culture most 18-23 year olds are generally not as “ready” to be committed. That is more society’s fault than theirs by the way.
So how do we know if we are “ready”?
Here’s truth one: In some ways you are never really “ready”. There probably isn’t going to be that magical moment when you are perfectly ready. And really you can’t know what marriage is like without actually being married. We can, and should know what marriage is – a covenant with God and this other person for life, but that is not the same as being ready.
But that said, here are some things I think are helpful in terms of readiness.
First, do you see yourself as an adult? Marriage does not make you adult, it makes you married. This is important in many ways and probably deserves it’s own post. But my point is it’s helpful to see yourself as an adult if you are going to be married. (For free, it’s good to be an adult. If you are in your mid twenties and you don’t see yourself as an adult – now would be the time).
Second, as a guy, I think you need to know what the heck you are about. What direction do you see your life going? It’s going to go a lot better if when you ask someone to go with you, you were actually going somewhere. I have a friend who onetime told me, that guys should think Master, Mission, Mate, in that order. In other words, know God, know what you are about, invite someone into that with you.
Finally, and this might actually be most important. No matter what age you are, in my opinion, if you find the person you want to marry, make it happen. This assumes they love the Lord etc. but part of being ready to be married has to do with having someone to marry.
I’d love some responses here. When do you think people should start to think about marriage? How do you know you are ready? Are you ready? What would it take to get ready?
I used to think that you needed to be ready for marriage. My friend and I would argue about this all the time because she felt it was just about God’s timing. We are both single, I am 29 and she is 28, so whose right? I now lean more towards not needing to be ready to be married and it just being in God’s time. My community consists of singles of all ages…late 20’s, early 30’s, late 30’s and early 40’s. It also consists of those who married young. My own pastors married in their late teens and had 4 kids by their mid 20’s. They’ve been married almost 40 years. While I would love that testimony (to be married for 4 decades), the probability is unlikely. Its taken most of my 20s to learn that we change so much during our lives and I’ve changed SO much from the person I was in my early 20’s. So much so that I am not even compatible with the guy I was engaged to at 22. God has used these last 7 years to really do a deep work in me and in my character. Yet I know others whom He has chosen to do this same work in, during their marriage. So, I think it all comes down to God’s plan for your life. He knows how He will get the most glory from each person. He got the most glory from Jesus and Paul being single…hopefully he gets the most glory from me being married one day :o) Thanks for sharing a thought-provoking post!
Justin — Great advice. One word of caution concerning the need to marry a Christian. This is truly important in keeping with the admonition to NOT be unequally yoked. Unfortunately, I have discovered, the VERY hard way, that simply marrying someone who is a Christian doesn’t, IMHO, quite do it. For example, I was married to a lady who identified herself as a Christian, and I must believe/trust that she really was, but we had such radically differing views on how a Christian should live that we had terrible conflict for the brief time we were married. She was extremely liberal in her views on just about everything, e.g., abortion, homosexuality, premarital sex, you get the idea, and I take all the teaching of the Bible very seriously. Unfortunately, I was so in love with her that I pushed these differences aside thinking that we would be able to work through the differences and live with each other’s differing views. But, it simply didn’t work out so well. I believe that eventually she felt like I was too judgmental, and I felt I was just being discerning. I admit that in many ways I lost respect for her and although I tried very hard not to think ill of her opinions, and some actions, I just wasn’t able to convince her that I really did love her. I wanted the marriage to last but she filed for divorce saying that she was sure God only wanted her to be happy! Because of my strong desire to be obedient to God my heart was broken and I felt guilty for letting God and my wife down. It was the most miserable thing to ever happen to me. Only my strong faith in God’s grace and forgiveness and wonderful church friends and family helped me through the situation. So. bottom line, yes! By all means only marry a Christian believer. But ALSO, be sure that your views on the teachings of Scripture aleign and that there are no major differences in worldviews or important social and cultural issues.
What interests me is that my parents married in 1973, when they were both 19, and my mom often says she thinks they married too young. My mom dropped out of college partway through, first to work while my dad finished his degree, and then to have me. She tried twice to go back to school, and never ended up finishing her degree, which leaves her stuck in jobs that are not her passion, because she doesn’t have that magic piece of paper.
I think, though, that at some point there’s almost a reversal of “being ready”. I wouldn’t advocate waiting until you’re older ONLY because you think you must be ready for marriage. Frankly, ten years ago, I was much more “ready” for marriage than I am today. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have needed convincing that marriage was a valid lifestyle choice for me. Now, though, I’m so used to being married that I’m not even interested in looking for marriage. I wouldn’t refuse if God hit me over the head and said, “Marry this guy, stupid!” But it would take a great deal more adjustment for me today than it would have when I was 26.
I tend to disagree with the idea of adolescence lasting longer in our generation. I would say, rather, that there are people in every generation who never really grow out of adolescence–it’s just that our current culture allows that much more easily than in past generations, where you were automatically expected to marry, raise kids, etc. And I know you’re not saying that every single adult is experiencing extended adolescence 🙂 but just for clarity’s sake, I don’t believe that lifelong singles simply never grew up.
I think you make a very interesting point about becoming less “ready” to be married. Part of the beauty of marrying younger is you have no idea what you are doing. It’s actually less scary in a way.
And exactly right. My point is not using singleness as an excuse to extend adolescence. It should have nothing to do with marital status. And our current generation writes books about extending it. Crazy. 🙂
I think regardless of when you get married, it is important to remember that marriage is always something you need to work at in order to keep it healthy and holy. Too often people focus on preparing for marriage as if it is the end goal that, once achieved, requires no further preparation. But regardless of marrying at 19 or 49, there will always be more growth, more “preparation” required for the ongoing journey. Marriage isn’t a sign of completion but rather a new environment in which to continue being shaped into the image of Christ.
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