While walking through campus the other day, I came upon a group of girls who could not have been much older than 18, ooing and awing over their friend’s engagement ring.
For the most part I minded my own business, but toward the end of the conversation I overheard the bride-to-be state something about her and her fiancé only knowing each other for a few months. Her youth and short-lived courtship did not seem to deter her excitement at all. She seemed more than confident she would be with this boy forever; in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health and until death do they part.
This isn’t the only time I’ve witnessed this – in fact, recently I’ve seen it quite often. The commitment of marriage is quickly becoming the “I love you” of today’s generation. The ring, the dress and the excitement of a wedding seems to be an accessory to many of these people, rather than a tradition carried on through our world’s history. To me, marriage should be the coming together of two people who have not only realized they love each other, but are emotionally mature enough to prove it. If you marry before you are old enough to legally have a glass of champagne during the toast, that emotional maturity, while possible, seems unlikely.
According to the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, the normal age of marriage in the 1950’s was about 19, often times even earlier. Responsibilities were given to teens in those days that parents today would rarely consider, like throwing their children into the world unassisted at 17 or 18.
In today’s society, a study on marriage and age published by the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2001 found that 48 percent of those who marry before they are 20 years old are likely to divorce within 10 years. The reasoning for such numbers is the circumstance that comes with this age bracket; no longer a teen, but not a full formed adult either.
More often than not, 18-20 year olds (and at times even older) lack the ability to know exactly what they want in a lifetime partner. They still have years of school to complete and after that need to become adjusted to the work world.
Not to mention the financial aspect of things. The average college student is scraping by, waiting tables or working another form of a part-time job to pay for tuition and rent. Helping to support another person, or in some cases a family, could pose as a challenge.
Of course, there are always exceptions. Some of the people I respect the most are, in fact, married couples who are just above this age bracket. However, these people are also some of the smartest and most mature people I have ever met. They took time to think things through and didn’t get caught up in the lavish idea of marriage.
For the most part this fails to happen, which is why I know more young divorcees or unhappily married couples. There’s a smart and foolish way to do most things, and, unfortunately, young marriages are often done the foolish way.
Marriage is a serious responsibility that most 18-20 year olds aren’t mature enough to handle. So let’s battle this country’s rising divorce rate by thinking long and hard before jumping into a lifetime commitment. If someone is really worth spending the rest of your life with, they’ll stick around until you’re older and wiser.