I appeared on HuffPost Live last night to talk about delayed marriage and its consequences. One thing that I didn’t get to say, but that is extremely important to say, is that there is no such thing as a right age to marry for everyone. However, there is such a thing as a right way to go about courtship (if I may use that ancient and beautiful word): to be intentional in relationships, and specifically, to court with a view toward marriage. And if young adults do this, more young adults will get married in their early-mid 20’s.
Also, Amanda Marcotte, who wrote the Slate article, “The Case Against Marrying Young,” noted that many young adults are wary of getting married young because they saw their parents get married young and get divorced. This is a legitimate concern.
However, as I noted, what many working class young adults are instead doing isn’t any better: they are still forming intimate relationships and starting families – the only thing that’s missing, as they say, is “the piece of paper.” And when these young couples break up – and many of them do break up – they experience something like an invisible divorce. For instance, consider the emotional state and family situation of Ricky, the four-times engaged but never married father I wrote about recently.
So many working class young adults find themselves in a predicament: get married and make themselves vulnerable to divorce, or delay marriage and make themselves vulnerable to a string of broken relationships, and if they have children, a fragmented family.
The way out of this predicament, I would suggest, is for communities to come alongside young adults and encourage them to embrace intentional relationships and to embrace “the marriage idea”: the commitment to love and sacrifice for your spouse and family until death. In other words, for communities to rebuild marriage as a formative institution that guides young, passionate lovers to becoming old, mature lovers.
And I emphasize the role of communities here, because it really does take a village to build and sustain a good marriage.