Marriage. It’s what brings us together, today.
Or in this case, it might tear some of our opinions apart.
Look, I’ll be honest, I’m very pro-marriage. I favor the institution of marriage and I think it’s a beautiful thing for heterosexual and same-sex couples alike to be legally recognized in a union together.
However, I don’t think it’s the best idea for young couples to get married.
When say I young couples, I mean couples that are in their late teens to their mid-twenties. In the United States, this age range is when one is either obtaining a degree, working, or finding themselves on their own for the first time. This time is when many young adults have first left their parent's nest, and are in a transitive state between childhood and their lives as full adults.
It’s a typical anecdote that teens and young adults make mistakes. Or, as the artist Khalid put it, are “Young, Dumb and Broke.” Most college students have limited funds since school is expensive and it’s difficult to get a well-paying job while in school. Young adults who enter the workforce right away have to learn how to save and manage an adult lifestyle. For many young adults of either category, their parents are still likely to help with their expenses.
Is it justified to be getting engaged and married when you’re not entirely independent of your parents?
I think the answer is no.
In a society that is moving toward economic equality of both sexes, where women don’t have to rely on their family before a husband takes over, marriage represents a union between two adults to recognize their love, commitment and sharing of personal assets.
Relying on your parents to pay for the majority of your life and not having strong financial management knowledge does not bode well for managing a household within a marriage. Of the leading causes of divorce, financial disagreement is a top reason for marital dispute and separation. So, why start off on the wrong foot by not being financially independent?
There’s also the issue of brain development. While you may feel mature for your age, the human brain is not finished developing until on average, 25 years of age. The part of the brain that matures last is the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for rational decision making — a key component to making long-term decisions.
And while love is irrational, marriage represents more than love. Marriage is a partnership, a trust and a commitment that demands sacrifice. While these components typically rest on a base of love, one must have rational, critical thinking skills to determine if marriage is worthwhile to their long-term interests.
If you are young and deeply in love with someone, why is there a rush? Why not wait, cohabitate and enjoy each other without legal entanglements that you may not be ready to tackle just yet?
Love itself is not enough to sustain a marriage.
Many young adults feel pressure from family, friends or society to find a significant other when they are young. Many older adults might say that if you don’t find someone NOW, the good ones will all be gone. But is this true? Today, the average age for an American man to first marry is 29, and it’s 27 for women. So realistically, the so-called "good" ones will likely not be gone by the time you're wholly independent and mature.
And why should finding a significant other be such a sole focus in a young adult’s life? If this is the time to find yourself, stabilize, start working on your career and to figure things out, why is there rush to settle down? Quite frankly, this period of self-discovery and self-actualization should afford young adults the time to be a little selfish.
And really, it isn’t selfish to put yourself first while you’re young.
It is important to learn to put yourself before others, as that skill can teach necessary humility for personal relationships. But, it’s also essential to be able to put yourself first as well. The early 20’s is the prime time to see things you want and to get them without added responsibilities.
It’s one of the few times in life where you could move across the country at the drop of a hat, or travel just because you want to. You don't need to consider the needs of many people besides yourself, and you can live the exact life you want and gain experience that can enrich the lives of yourself and others later on.
Having a spouse can hinder that freedom. Decisions need to be made together, and why should one person have to give up their young dreams at the expense of another's? Sacrifice is necessary for all relationships, but one shouldn’t feel like they should have to exchange a foundational period of their life all for the benefit of another.
Collectively, financial freedom, a rational brain and a plethora of experience and stability will make you ready for marriage. The vast majority of the young adult population does not have these things by the time they are 25. And if you’re one of the few people that do, you still need to consider if you need more years of independence.
You will need to ask yourself: Is one to seven years of full independence enough? Am I fulfilled? Did I fall in love with myself before I fell in love with someone else?
If you’re unsure of your answer to these questions or if the answer is no, let that prefrontal cortex of yours do some more thinking. Spend more time with your partner before you put a ring on it.
The tone of this article may seem like I’m shaming young couples. The bold headline may be provoking and many of you may think it’s not my business to tell you what to do.
But you know what? I’m not telling you what to do.
I’m not demanding any regulation to prevent you from doing what you want. If you're going to marry someone fresh out of high school or while you're getting your degree, that's your choice.
All I’m here to do is give you some data to let you know there is not a rush to marry and that it doesn't make sense to rush. I’m giving you a personal reminder that now is your time to shine and develop as your own person. I’m here to remind you that marriage requires a lot more than the puppy love that makes us all gush over white weddings and the image of our soulmate at the end of a long aisle.
I’m here to remind all of you that a lot of us are still just overgrown kids, and we should take advantage of that as long as we can.
Being an adult is scary. Many of the freedoms we had as children do not exist, and we become the sole figures responsible for our lives.
Love is beautiful, and love can be free. But love is not free in the context of marriage.
Marriage has rewards and consequences, and let’s not relinquish our love to the legal institution of marriage until we know it’s strong enough to wither hardship. The better we can rationalize our decisions and take comfort in ourselves, the more prepared we as young adults will be to work at and keep love within our marriage contracts until death do us part.