The majority of states allow for marriage at age 16 with parental consent. Some experts have suggested a national age for getting married. Others contend that certain parts of the country need their own customized laws — like those in the Midwest that allow younger teens to drive tractors. But driving a tractor is a far cry from marriage. A bad tractor driver can ruin a field; a bad marriage can ruin lives.
The divorce rates of young marriages are alarming. “Those who wed between 14 and 17 years of age are twice as likely to divorce as couples who wait until their 20s,” says James C. Dobson
, Ph.D. in "Seven Keys to Lifelong Love." “Making it as a family requires some characteristics that come with maturity, such as selflessness, stability and self-control. It's best to wait for their arrival.”
Young couples who tie the knot too early often fail to realize the gravity and responsibilities of marriage. They’re stuck on the “For Better” part of the vow and don’t consider the “For Worse” side. So while many 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds are drawn to the idea of a romantic life-long companionship, financial security, social acceptance and love, they seem blindsided by the many problems that often arise—like unemployment, abuse, an unexpected pregnancy, in-laws, affairs, the list goes on and on.
Kay Moffett, author of "Not Your Mother's Divorce: A Practical, Girlfriend-to-Girlfriend Guide to Surviving the End of a Young Marriage
," says, “Many couples who marry too early haven’t achieved a fully formed self.” She advises couples to wait until they’re in their late 20’s. “This allows for a period of Identity Exploration and a time to figure one’s self out,” says Moffett. She notes that most couples who plunge into wedlock early do so for the wrong reasons. “They’re simply too excited about their relationship, about being married, having accomplished what they feel they’ve been pressured to do, often by their peers.”
She feels younger couples often lack stability at home or on the job. “Some are adrift in terms of family relationships, schooling or careers,” she adds. Those who wait also seem better equipped to survive the post honeymoon surprises. “Couples who have dated more are not so shocked, they tend to see their partner in a more realistic light,” says Moffett. “They don’t idolize marriage or their partner, they evaluate and make compromises regarding their partner’s flaws,” she adds.
This lack of preparation for a lifelong commitment coupled with unrealistic expectations from one’s partner seems to be a common thread in marriages of the very young. In her book, "From the Mating Dance to the Cosmic Dance: Sex, Love, and Marriage from a Yogic Viewpoint
," Swami Sivananda Radha explains, “Many young adults are woefully ill-prepared for life and lack any realistic understanding of what is involved in a sexual relationship or marriage contract. Too often, a young woman is taught merely how to dress and make herself attractive to men.”
So other than being in your teens, how do you know if you’re too young to wed? Some rough guidelines: 1. You long to travel.
Not going to happen with a wife who works and a toddler in tow. Best to see Europe now. 2. You haven’t made any realistic career choices.
You dropped out of college to just hang out with your buddies, or to tend bar while you write a screenplay. 3. This is your first serious relationship.
All you’ve done is blind dates, speed dating, and bar hopping. 4. All your friends are still single.
You're watching TV sitcoms for marital advice. Alex A. Kecskes is a national award-winning writer with more than 20 years experience in advertising, PR and promotions. He is founder of ak creativeworks, a creative services company and writes regularly for web and print.