Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Cost of Delaying Marriage

Young ladies need to know that this is absolutely true.

What we rarely hear – or perhaps are too fearful to admit – is how liberating marriage can actually be.

Our grandmothers, we are told, took husbands the way we might choose our first apartment. There was a scheduled viewing, a quick turn about the interior, a glance inside the closets, a nervous intake of breath as one read the terms of the lease, and then the signing – or not. You either felt a man’s charms right away or you didn’t. If you didn’t, you entertained a few more prospects until you found one who better suited you. If you love him, really loved him, all the better. But you also expected to make compromises. The view may not be great, but it’s sunny and spacious (translation: he’s not that handsome, but he’s sweet-natured and will be a good provider).

Whether you accepted or rejected him, however, you didn’t dawdle. My late mother-in-law, who married at twenty, told me that in her college circles in the mid-1950s, a man who took a woman out for more than three dates without intending marriage was considered a cad. Today, the man who considered marriage so rashly would be thought a fool. Likewise, a woman.

Instead, like lords or sailors of yore, a young woman is encouraged to embark upon the world, seek her fortune and sow her oats, and only much later – closer to 30 than 20 – consider the possibility of settling down. Even religious conservatives, who disapprove of sex outside of marriage, accept the now- common wisdom that it is better to put off marriage than do it too early. The popular radio host, Laura Schlessinger, traditional in so many of her views, constantly tells her listeners not to consider going to the altar much before thirty. In 1965, nearly 90 percent of women aged 25 to 29 were married; by 1996, only 56 percent of women in this age group were. Indeed, the more educated and ambitious a woman is the more likely she is to delay marriage and children, the Census Bureau reports. And if she doesn’t – if such a young woman decides to get married, say, before she is25 – she risks being regarded by her friends as a tragic figure, spoken of the way wartime generations once mourned the young man killed in battle: "How unfortunate, with all that promise, to be cut down so early in life!"

I remember congratulating a young woman upon her recent marriage to a friend of mine and commenting perfunctorily that both of them must be very happy. She was 24 at the time. She grabbed my hand, held it, and said with emotion, "Thank you!" As it turned out, I’d been the only woman to offer her congratulations without immediately expressing worry that she’d done the wrong thing. Her single female friends had greeted her wedding announcement as a kind of betrayal. A few had managed to stammer some grudging best wishes. Her best friend nearly refused to be a bridesmaid. They simply couldn’t fathom why she’d tossed away her freedom when she was barely out of college. And she, in turn, couldn’t convince them that she really had met the man she wanted to marry, that she didn’t want to keep going out to bars in the evenings and clubs on the weekends, postponing her marriage for half a decade until she reached an age that her friends would consider more suitable.

In this sense, we lead lives that are exactly the inverse of our grandmothers’. If previous generations of women were raised to believe that they could only realize themselves within the roles of wife and mother, now the opposite is thought true: It’s only outside these roles that we are able to realize our full potential and worth as human beings. A 20-year-old bride is considered as pitiable as a 30-year-old spinster used to be. Once a husband and children were thought to be essential to a woman’s identity, the source of purpose in her life; today, they are seen as peripherals, accessories that we attach only after our full identities are up and running.

Read on and find out what really is the cost of delaying marriage.


Anonymous said...

Very, very true. I was a bride at 20, and a mother just nine months later. Instead of sharing my joys, I found myself most oftentimes trying to defend my choice to marry young and bear children right away. I, too, received pitying glances and rolled eyes. I still receive those glances very often, since Husband and I have four children age five and under! (and show no signs of 'being done'!) I have no regrets, and my life is so sweet and good! If only people giving me the pitying glances knew what they were missing! I love your blog- I check it every day!

Miss Kelly & Miss Andrea said...

Thank you for visiting our blog. I love your statement, "I have no regrets, and my life is so sweet and good" Thank you for saying so. Yes, if only they knew. If only they knew. My parents were married at 20 and have just celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary. My Father often says was get married and raise children. It changes your life forever in ways you can't imagine.

All the best,
Miss Kelly

MrsTracy said...

Providence! My dd was just married a little over a week ago, at the ripe ole age of 17. She graduated homeschool June of this year and turned 17 in August.

Whats sad and funny is that the first thing people want to know is if she is pregnant! Ugh, no. They have been courting for 2 years and talking about marriage for a little over a year!

We even had a lady try to convince dd to hold off having children so she can pursue a career. Dd and her dh have already come to the conclusion that they would let God decide on their family size and her "career" IS her family!

People seem to think that she cant be serious and that she is wasting her time. Makes me so MAD! Why cant the mind their business? She is almost finished her AA transfer degree and will continue on with college, but she is not career minded, not by the worlds standards anyway.

Anonymous said...

Just found you through Ladies Against Feminism - great entry. I married my wonderful husband at 23 and have NO regrets. I've had women comment "but you never got to live out on your own, you don't know if you could have really done it." My answer to that is poppycock, lol. Of course I could have, but there was no need. When you meet the man God has for you, you want to get started *now*. I have four lovely children and will hopefully be enjoying my first grandchildren in my late 40's/early 50's, rather than my early *70's*, as some women who wait too long will have to do. Of course I want my children to follow God's will for their lives, but I honestly hope they find their mates young so that they have that many more years together, as their father and I have. Bookmarking your blog to read more later - cheers!
P.S. My wonderful parents married at ages 23/22 and they're at 43 years married and counting. : )

Anonymous said...

Very nice post! I was married at 18, my husband was 25. We just celebrated our 9th anniversary and have 4 children so far.

I tried the college life for a little while, but it just wasn't for me and I honestly don't know what I would be doing if I had delayed marriage and children, but I also have no regrets about my early marriage.


Angela said...

My husband and I were the first two of all of our friends married almost 13 years ago. 2 wonderful children later, we're still in the minority of those old friends because we have "chosen to breed" as they have put it. He was 18 and I was 21 when we married, and we have loved every moment of our lives together. We knew we were meant for one another within a very short time after meeting. We hope the same is true for our daughters one day.

Anonymous said...

I, too, found your blog through Ladies against Feminism. I have a friend, younger than me, who also married at age 20, and got pregnant right away. She and her husband were in their senior year of college, and my friend didn't get to finish her very last semester of college because of the birth of the baby. I was, frankly, ASTONISHED at the hateful comments directed towards them from people at our church( and that in itself is a sad, sad commentary), who felt that my friend had totally "thrown away" her life.....there is sadly very little respect for children, babies, and being a mother in the church at large anymore. Honestly, I think the average evangelical church has less tolerance, in some ways, for early marriage and abundent fertility, than the world at large does.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's fair to say women who delay marriage are making a mistake just as I don't think it's fair to make fun of women who choose to get married at a relatively young age.

I got married at 29 and have never regretted it. I spent my early 20s living alone and relished it as much as I now relish being a wife (and hopefully soon, a mother!). I know that at 23 I was not ready to be someone's wife for many reasons. That is not to say every 23-year-old woman is not ready. I have two good friends who married in their early 20s who are very happy. But that's them, not me.

Also, some women choose not to get married at all but rather live on their own. I know a few in this situation who are not dowdy spinsters, but women living full, vibrant lives.

Let's not dictate one path for all people. Surely there are many paths to happiness.

Michelle said...

Once in a grocery store, I was carded while buying cigarettes for my husband. I joked that I hoped I was old enough to buy cigarettes, since I was married with four children. I was 23 at the time. The clerk (a perfect stranger) eyed me and said that if I was her daughter, married with kids at my age, she'd kill me.

I think that just about says it all.

Anonymous said...

I too, was married quite young. 19 to be exact, and my husband at the time was the "old man" at 21. We had dated all through high school and had already been together for four years by the time we got married!
My friends were "shocked" that we chose to get married. "Why don't you live together" or "Why don't you break up and date other people, you're so young, how do you know if he's really the one for you?"
Even my mother cried at my wedding, and it wasn't because she was happy...know what I mean?
Cut to 13 years later, I am now 32, he is 34, we have three lovely children. I have never been happier. My friends who offered the romantic advise way back when are either not my friends anymore, or are now in their 30s and frantically searching for someone..anyone...to date/marry/live together/raise babies!
My husband and I are so alike, we finish each other sentences, read the same books and highlight the same parts for the other to read, and frequently will pick up the phone to call each other, only to find the other one on the line already! We joke that we are mentally and psychically linked by now! (as long as we don't start to look alike, I don't want a beard or that much gray hair!)
Marrying young was the best thing I could have done.

Mrs W said...

I totally agree! People get mad at me when they start saying it's bad to marry young and I say "well, if my daughter wanted to get married at 17 or so and I knew the match was a good one, I'd consent." They get so mad! I was 21 when I was married and I had wanted to be married earlier than that. My husband was 22. Now people look at us strange because we've been married a year and a half and we have a little baby boy and a baby on the way. Even the Christian world doesn't appreciate families anymore.

Anonymous said...

Hi, I have only just found your blog and am enjoying it. I was married at 20 after a long friendship (starting at aged 8) and have never regretted it. Next month we will cellebrate 30 years of marriage and are looking forward to many more years together. To the people who told me to play-the-field I would say I have been very blessed in marriage to a wonderful man and would marry him again tomorrow.
Lydia, Devon, UK

Anonymous said...

I was married at 21, and felt the disapproval from my extended family, though not from my parents. Everyone, however, (including my parents) just assumed that we'd put off children, even if we were dumb enough to marry "so young". Ugh.

It's 3 1/2 years later and we're still childless, and it bugs the heck out of me to know that many people think it's because we're "being smart" and not because God just hasn't decided to bless us in that way, yet.

Excellent post.

Unknown said...

I am single and most times i dont want to b my family were sinners and it was considered a tradegy to get pregnant and not finish school so off i went. I didnt learn very much and had lots of failed relationships. Bc of racism i was not allowed to marry i am biracial living with a different race. And was told to b put on birth control much like those in sc who were sterilzed by the planned parenthood and Kkk. So i am 38 with no children. No husband. I am not happy and do not desire to return to work. Ppl do hate children perhaps bc children mean they must sacrifice there lives. I love to cook and wish getting married was an option for me perhaps i would not have had such a sad life. Work is nice but it really means nothing at the end of the day if you have no one who cares.