If you’ve been online in the last few days, it is likely that you’ve seen the article “23 Things To Do Instead Of Getting Engaged Before You’re 23.”
Beneath a few layers of faulty premises, some loose logic, and that angst and angry sarcasm we’ve come to expect from Gen-Y, the article sends a good message: don’t get married until you’re ready for marriage.
However, as I implied above, the article is rife with questionable implications, one’s that undermine the article’s intended message. Two glaringly inaccurate points stick out: 1) that “more and more” people are getting married before hitting 23 years of age and 2) that marrying older will lead to lower divorce rates.
History proves otherwise:
1. People marry older now than ever before.
The article begins with the observation that there is a growing prominence of people getting “engaged and/or married under the age of 23.” Nothing could be further from the truth.
Since a dip in the 1950s, the median age for first time newlyweds (male and female) has increased at an alarming rate (MS-2).
Currently, the average age that an American female marries for the first time is 26.9. The average American male marries at 28.9. In 1980, those figures were 22 for women, and 24.7 for men. Already, we see that the author of “23 Things…” seems to be fighting a battle that has been over for years. The tide has already turned, people are marrying older now than they ever have before.
Why write such an angry article decrying a phenomenon that is disappearing on its own?
Which leads me to the second glaringly false implication of the article: that a population that marries older will divorce less. A quick sweep of historical marriage statistics proves otherwise.
2. Marrying older has not improved marriage longevity.
According to the implicit logic of “23 Things…,” as the marriage age rises, the frequency of divorce falls. Well, given that people are marrying older now than at any time in recorded history, we should be seeing lower divorce rates as a result. Such is not the case.
As the graph above indicates, in the same time period that the first-time marriage age has skyrocketed, so has the divorce rate. People marry older and less often now than ever before–and divorce more as well.
It may be true, as the author insists, that the Kardashians are ruining marriage. It is certainly true that marrying recklessly and without serious introspective thought is dangerous. But the author makes the unfortunate mistake of tying such recklessness to a particular age. We don’t need to be marrying later, we need to be maturing earlier.
This is why the author’s suggested to-do list, however satirical, ultimately undermines the intended message–that is, to wait for marriage until you are ready. Marriage does not require one to be 23, it requires maturity. Yet the author’s list is full of things that could only prolong the immaturity, and selfishness so toxic to marriage. The list seems to suggest that one should prolong their childhood for the sake of marriage. In reality, one will never be ready for marriage until his/her childhood ends. The author’s suggestions of making out with strangers, and eating jars of nutella, while appealing, may have more to do with the frequency of divorce than age ever has.
The fact of the matter is that turning 23 does not make you an adult, nor does it make you ready for marriage (Kim K. was 31 when she married, and divorced Kris Humphries after all). Likewise, being 22 does not make you unprepared for marriage. Age is simply not a good measure of maturity.
Instead of waiting to turn 23 to get married, wait until you are mature. How do you know if you are mature? Well, if you are still making out with strangers (“Thing to do” #3), dating two people at the same time (“Thing to do” #11), and being selfish (“Thing to do” # 22), you have some work to do.