Is it good to marry ASAP after your 18th birthday? Or should you wait on the wedding until you’re well past 30?
Most of you are probably in the middle of some big life changes right now. I am too! For instance, I am working hard to declutter my art desk. Oh, and I just got married last month. That too. Like most women, I find that being married is very exciting - and very unexpected. I thought if I ever managed to get married, it wouldn’t be until much later down the road, probably when some silver streaked through my hair.
But to my surprise, and probably the surprise of all my friends, I was engaged at age 22. Yep, I'm a pretty young bride by today's statistics. Is that good or bad? I've heard arguments on both sides. There's the classic "the younger you are, the more you can grow together in marriage," and the common "the older you are, the more stability you bring into marriage." But you can’t have it both ways. So, which one’s right?
Neither. I think both of these miss the point since they both assume that age is equal to maturity. What really matters is "age versus stage."
Age Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Much
Note to Reader: This article is written for ages 18+. We all know that child marriage is always a bad idea, and organizations like Girls Not Brides are currently working to end child marriage in different parts of the world.
Obviously, age is our chronological timer that marks certain milestones - our birthdays, grade levels in school, when we can drive, or when we can vote. But this number tells us only how long we've been on the planet. It doesn't dictate our maturity level. I know kids who act on par with adults nearly twice their age. For example, two of my siblings have spent years of their teenage lives caring for high-needs foster children. Their crisis management and parenting skills are formidable.
Age tells us only how long we've been on the planet. It doesn't dictate our maturity level.
I've also met people in their thirties and forties who can't handle their elderly cat dying - they may have a graduate degree and a solid job, but they are about as emotionally stable as a high schooler. Would I say that my sibling is ready to get married? Not necessarily. Should the doctoral cat owner stay single? Not necessarily. Every situation is different. All I'm pointing out is that age doesn't tell us much about someone's life, especially his or her readiness to get married (within reason, obviously).
That Readiness Depends More on Stage
Stage, on the other hand, means a lot. Stage is another way of referring to maturity level. (Yes, I could have just said “age versus maturity,” but it had to rhyme!) Someone’s stage doesn't always match their age, because maturity depends on how you handle life experience. Obviously, the older you are, the more years of experience you have. You would think that ipso-facto, older equals more mature, right?
Someone’s stage doesn't always match their age, because maturity depends on how you handle life experience.
But here’s the thing: extra time doesn't automatically mean you'll handle things well. Similarly, being traumatized by insane life events in your teens doesn't automatically make you more mature than your peers. This all depends on how you handle what comes your way: stage. People in the same stage can be all different ages. Stage, not age, is often the stronger predictor of success or failure in a marriage. Why?
Stage Tells You about a Person. Age Tells You about a Timeline.
Put yourself into this far-fetched story. You get a surprise proposal from a handsome stranger who says he’s 27 years old but tells you nothing else about himself. Before you can answer him, a second man drops down on one knee. He says he’s finishing his internship for grad school, and in his spare time, he volunteers at a Big Brother program for kids in need. Which proposal are you more likely to accept? The second, obviously. Why?
But the point remains that if you’re making a big decision like marriage, stage is the make-it-or-break-it factor.
He told you information that is useful, information that speaks to his experiences and character. In short, he told you his stage, without ever mentioning how old he was. The first guy did just the opposite, and his personal timeline doesn’t tell you anything besides a number. Sure, he could be doing all the same things Guy #2 is, I don’t know. (Sadly I’ve never gotten two random street proposals.) But the point remains that if you’re making a big decision like marriage, stage is the make-it-or-break-it factor.
Overall, instead of debating about what is the right age to get married, maybe we should be talking about stage. Is he emotionally stable? Is she practical? Are you both good problem-solvers? Do you trust each other? Do you make each other better? These are the types of questions we should be asking.