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TIMING IS EVERYTHING: The “Right” Age to Marry and How to Know You’re Ready

 

Among the many reasons I hear from couples who are struggling when I ask them for a hypothesis is the fact that they married either “too young” or “too old.”

Everyone has a different idea and definition of these terms, so what do they really mean and what is the ideal age at which to tie the knot?

Below I outline some pros and cons of marrying earlier and later in life and then discuss a few requirements of a strong foundation you can build on at any age to create a satisfying, lifelong partnership.

MARRYING “YOUNG”

  • Potential Advantages
    • You have less baggage. When your partner is all you’ve known (or you haven’t dated a lot), you won’t have the opportunity to compare them to others and haven’t developed years of bad relational habits you’ll need to break.
    • You may receive more family support and guidance. When a couple marries at a relatively young age, people may assume they need more help and be willing to provide it.
    • You can grow with your spouse. You don’t yet fully know yourself and can experiment and explore this in partnership with your beloved as your lives evolve.
    • You’ll have a great story to tell. As the average age of marriage continues to increase, tales of marrying one’s high school or college sweetheart are becoming rare and precious.
  • Potential Disadvantages
    • You are still changing. It’s difficult to predict how your needs, interests, and priorities will vary as you mature.  Sometimes, growth brings us closer to our partners and sometimes it pushes us apart.  This doesn’t alter the commitment you make, but it can influence the closeness you share as you age.
    • You likely have fewer financial resources. This doesn’t have to doom your happiness (and in fact, many couples name the lean years of struggle as some of their happiest) but financial stress is real and can put pressure on both of you.
    • You are not yet established in your career. You may need more education or training to launch your career and this can take away from the investment required in the early years of marriage.

 

MARRYING “OLDER”

  • Potential Advantages
    • You have matured and more fully understand what makes a good marriage. This includes the ability to sacrifice, be patient, listen, and apologize:  all things that typically come with age and experience.
    • You have completed your education. As mentioned above, educational pursuits can demand much time and effort, so it’s best to have fully reached your educational goals before you marry.
    • You are clearer about what you want. Clarity aids in decision-making and helps you select a partner that is both healthy in general and fit for you personally.
    • You have done much of your “changing”. This can mean a lot of things but people tend to feel as if they’ve squeezed as much as they can out of the single life in their 30’s and settled down into a version of themselves that stays relatively stable for the rest of their lives.
  • Potential Disadvantages
    • You have much more baggage. I mentioned this as an advantage to marrying young and it is something you may not realize the power of until you’re married and working out your everyday lives together.  Hurtful or damaging experiences in the past have a way of appearing when you least expect it, and when they do, you’ll need to deal with them.
    • You may be more set in your ways. If you haven’t married by your mid-20’s, you have likely developed some habits that may conflict with your new spouse’s preferred ways.  These will need to be negotiated.
    • You lose time with your soulmate. Michael and I married when we were in our mid-30’s and often express regret that we won’t have more time together because we met relatively late in life.  When we see couples celebrating their 50th and 60th wedding anniversaries, it reminds us that this is a milestone we probably won’t get to experience.

 

Keep in mind that the above are generalities; thus the reason for use of the word “potential” when speaking about the benefits and drawbacks of marrying at any age.  Your particular situation may be very different!

 

Whether you put yourself in the “younger” or “older” category, how do you know you’re ready to marry at ANY age?  Here is my short list:

You are no longer financially or emotionally reliant on your parents (or other family members).

  • The Bible refers to “leaving and cleaving” when we marry. Moving forward with your partner while continuing to rely on your family can be very detrimental to your new marriage and prevent you from establishing healthy boundaries as a couple.

You know who you are and what you want (and what you don’t want).

  • Clarity about yourself, your values, your priorities, and what you won’t allow in your life increases the chances that you will choose someone in alignment with these things. In contrast, the lack of this clarity can result in a very poor choice with disastrous results.

You can honestly say that your partner is your best friend.

  • Your connection must be based on much more than just attraction or “chemistry” and stand the test of time and everything life is going to throw at it.

You are ready to make your new spouse the priority (not a priority).

  • Everything else comes a distant second. And I do mean everything.

You are ready and willing to be completely faithful (sexually and emotionally) to your spouse.

  • This speaks directly to your character. If you have doubts about this or have struggled with fidelity in the past, you’re probably not ready to walk down the aisle.

You care more about your marriage than your wedding.

  • It’s easy to get distracted by the chaos and excitement that defines wedding planning today and lose focus on how you need to begin laying a foundation for a successful marriage. Don’t neglect to seek some professional guidance.  (We offer a great Premarital Coaching Package)!

You know and understand your partner deeply and trust them completely.

  • This sounds like a no-brainer but you’d be surprised at how little some people know about one another before they make the ultimate commitment.

Your love is built on something greater than the 2 of you.

  • I think of the quote, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” here. You should feel as if you and your partner share a mission or a cause that binds you together.  For Michael and me, it’s our faith, which anchors us when the waves get rough.

You can disagree and resolve conflicts respectfully and collaboratively.

  • I’d go so far as to say that – if you haven’t had a conflict yet (or resolved one well) – you should wait to do this before you commit.

You have a shared vision of your future together (e.g., children, travels, financial goals, etc.).

  • While this vision can change over time, you should agree on the basics.

The significant people in your life have met – and like – your partner (or least don’t have any major reservations).

  • It’s surprising how often this is overlooked, particularly in the rosy glow of what feels like true and everlasting love. Moving forward without this will almost always come back and bite you on the back side.

You can’t imagine a future without this person in it.

  • The adage, “Don’t marry someone you can live with; marry someone you can’t live without” is appropriate here.

 

Whether or not we marry “young”, “old”, or somewhere in-between, we all have strong and weak places in our marriage.  The important thing is that we remember the commitment we made – however long ago – and stand firmly in it.

If you need help to do just that, get in touch!  We’re standing by.

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