And a Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven

When should humans marry?

No, I’m serious about this.  I have no clue.  As yesterday’s post pointed out 23 is too early to marry – apparently – in mainstream eyes.  At the same time, there has been some Duck Dynasty kerfuffle (Honestly, till the first kerfuffle I thought Duck Dynasty was an AUSTRALIAN show about a family named Duck.  No, don’t ask.) because the main guy said you should marry a woman in her teens.  Whatevs.  His age seems to be like two years older than his wife, so the question is not “should a middle aged man marry a young woman?” but “Should high school sweet heart’s marry.”


I got married at 22.  By that time I was considered an old maid by my society’s reckoning.  The one woman who got married just before me was the last but one of my elementary class to get married (also, my best friend at the time.)  The one who remained unmarried after me is still unmarried.  So, I was at the very tail end of “those who meant to marry.”


Now, I grew up in a rural village, and therefore marrying early was the norm.  Most of my classmates quit school in fourth grade (yes, it was illegal, as was working at that age, but it was easy to get a certificate saying your daughter was mentally retarded and should be taught a trade.  Which is what happens when third world countries pass laws against child labor) and worked in the textile factory for their “dowry” (and some for help to their parents.)


By eighteen most of these women had been working for eight years, and had money saved for furnishing their first home.  Their husbands, too, were young men who worked in the same factory for the same time, or who had just finished apprenticeships in the trades, or who worked the family farm.


Getting married early meant another pair of hands to work and bring money home before the children, and meant more children, who in turn would work and turn at least some of the money to the parents for part of the time.


It was different in the “Class” I belonged to.  My brother and sister in law got married at 26.  In fact, in my college class only one woman was married, though several had long-term boyfriends.


But I was raised by a mother who got married at seventeen and who insisted that if you got married much past 25 you were “set in your ways” and couldn’t “accommodate” to each other the way young lovers could.  I don’t know.  A couple of my friends got married in their thirties or older and did/do fine.  It’s highly unlikely my older son at least will marry until his thirties, at least if he manages to get into the career path he hopes for.  There won’t be emotional room in his life till then.  And I hope he marries and is happy.


Median age of marriage has varied, too, as well as the gap between partners.  In regency England – something wildly fudged in contemporary romances – it was quite normal for middle aged men to marry seventeen year old girls.  For the conditions of the time, this made perfect sense.  A more financially/career secure man gave better protection, and a very young woman had more children, which in an age when survival to adulthood was iffy gave more chances at progeny.

Also, to be blunt, neither the high nor the low classes expected EMOTIONAL much less intellectual companionship out of marriage.  They weren’t looking for someone to complete them. They were looking for someone who brought something to a rather prosaic partnership and if they could rub along tolerably well, so much the better.  (This is of course, generalized from writings of the time.  I do not doubt some people had wild love-matches.)


At other times and in other places, marriage partners were expected to be roughly the same age and marriage ages have ranged from the early teens to the mid twenties.  Usually not much further than that, because absent modern medicine the chance of children past that was minimal.  And the chance of living much past sixty about the same.


So, why would 23 – or any other age above legal age of consent be “too young” for marriage?  Is there an age that’s too old?


Look, there have been very few studies done on the subject of marriage.  They tend to be conducted in skivvy ways too, to prove the researcher’s pre-conception.  There’s a reason we call them “soft” sciences.


The few that have been done often yield odd results – like the idea that arranged marriages do not result in more or less happiness than marriages “for love.”


I think the high degree of divorce we’re experiencing (nowhere near 50% but high enough) comes from the fact that none of us knows what to think marriage is for, anymore.  It used to be fairly clear it was for “a helpmate” and “the procreation of children.”  But female liberation and the pill have made those not immediate certainties.  Artificial reproduction, which is just around the corner, will only make it more so.  So instead people are trying to make marriage about “love” – a fleeting emotion, unless it’s viewed as a life-long growth process – or “self actualization” or “happiness.”  None of those are possible of a metric, and a lot of people give up.


I can only report on my own case. For me marriage was for the formation of a family; for having kids (at which I’ve had underwhelming success, but hey, I have two) and to have a man I could respect and trust and with whom I wouldn’t need to play games.


Under those objectives, I was wildly successful.  Did we make stupid mistakes because we were really young when we got married?  Sure we did.  But we also did grow together.  To be honest, I’m not sure, given the different cultures, how this would have worked had we been ten years older.


And love?  Oh, love too, judged as a long-growing emotion.  We have our peaks (shush you) but most of the time it’s sort of a low-grade, simmering happiness.  In fact, we’re both agreed if we could have it differently, we’d have got married at 18, because then maybe we’d have a few more kids.


For us, for various reasons and because both of us needed to find a path together (again for various reasons, mostly because we were odds and therefore scarred) an early marriage worked.  I have several friends who I would not have advised to marry before thirty.  Some of them did anyway, and some of those marriages turned out all right, to my shock.


So, would I condemn someone for saying high school sweethearts should marry?  Well, no.  For some people it’s the right thing.  I wouldn’t make it a universal rule. That would be stupid.  But I would say some high school kids are ready to marry.  Others aren’t.  Projected career paths, number of kids wanted, support by in-laws and various other factors would have to be taken into consideration before saying whether it’s a bad or a good idea.


Would I condemn someone for only marrying in their forties – again no.  Some people – particularly odds – simply don’t find the right person till then.  And you shouldn’t marry Mr. Right now just because you haven’t found Mr. Right.  (Or Ms.)


Some things I have observed though – some people never fully grow up until they’re married.  This is – forgive me – more true of men than women.  I think it’s because men’s social function is predicated on “loving and protecting” and until they have that someone to love and protect, they’re not “whole” as adults in our society.  Not all men.  I have bachelor friends who are obviously grown ups.  But some men – perhaps a majority of men – seem to need a unit within which to be an adult.


If the man in question is one of those, waiting for him to grow up outside of marriage/before marriage it simply won’t happen.  He’ll only grow up if he takes responsibility for someone else.


And the same is true of some women.  Some women will just run around being self-centered until they have someone to care for and look after.  If you’re waiting for them to grow up so you can marry them it won’t happen.


Again, I can only judge from my case.  Maybe I got immensely lucky

What do you think? Is there a “right” time to get married or does it depend on the person?  Is marrying young a bad/good thing?  Is raising expectations of happiness in marriage good or bad?


Likely none of us will fit any of the categories.  Being Odds, we move in Odd ways – but as an intellectual exercise…  Is our repulsion of the mismatched ages of Regency couples a manifestation of sanity?  Or something our descendants will find very odd?

165 thoughts on “And a Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven

  1. I think it depends on the person. I knew some people who were on their second divorce by the age of 30 and I remembered thinking that I didn’t need that kind of a headache. So I was happily single until meeting the woman who would later become my wife. We tied the knot several months after I turned 37. And I will say that the first 13 years have been fabulous beyond my wildest imaginings.

    My one regret about marrying so late? I’m not having any more children. If I were 40 (or younger) instead of 50, I would gladly add to three that I have.

    1. Yeah, I agree that it depends on the person and their maturity level. Some people are mature enough to marry at nineteen, some people wouldn’t be mature enough even at ninety! (Yet the latter usually try anyway, and end up divorced five times.)

      It’s almost impossible to give an age, but there might be a few rules of thumb. Such as: if you’ve learned to be unselfish, to choose to put someone else’s happiness before your own (not all the time, but often), then you’re probably mature enough to be married and have kids. Because the kids NEED to come first, before you. (Again, not all the time or you’ll burn out completely — but most of the time.) And your husband or wife will sometimes need you to do stuff for them, which you’d rather not do: it’s tedious, it’s difficult, it’s boring, whatever. But if you’ve learned to suck it up and do the hard jobs… your spouse will be very grateful.

      Gratitude: that’s another one. An attitude of gratitude, as a preacher put it whom I heard once. Those without such an attitude will make terrible spouses, but those who have learned how to be grateful for things are a joy to live with.

      And so on, and so forth. It’s not about age, it’s about character.

      1. Would you have had more energy to keep up with a three-year-old when you were 21?

        As mi madre said when arguing for children sooner rather than later, “Joesph, do you want to be thirty-five and trying to keep up with a five year old?” … It worked, but then they had me, and poor papa spent his thirty-fifth year trying to keep up with a five year old after all.

  2. I question the men not growing up outside a relationship idea. I agree that it is a common US cultural meme, but I also think that expectation hurts us. Marrying a guy to change him (which is what expecting maturing to happen after a marriage would be) might work, but it is more likely to be a disaster. The flip side of the “unmarried guys are immature” idea is that women, married or not, of the same age are all fully developed. That second bit is an insidious lie.

    If any woman believes the culture’s lies that they are already AS A TEENAGER about as emotionally, psychologically, and mentally mature as they can get… There’s a disturbingly high chance it will be true.

    I’m not sure what happens if a man believes he’s not supposed to be mature, but I don’t think it is a good thing. Maybe we get lucky and most men reinterpret the immaturity expectation to mean only around potential dates so they mentally free themselves to perform with maturity in educational and work environments.

      1. Most successful couples I know can honestly state that they are better together than they were while single. Spouses can and should compliment each other.
        That is entirely different from the sad tendency I see far to often for young women to be attracted to “bad boys” with the firm conviction that with their gentle guidance they can be made whole and reliable. It’s not universally true, but far too common for the husband to assume his wife will never change while the wife considers her man a starter kit she must mold into the husband she envisions and truly desires.
        As to the proper age, as with so many human characteristics I would simply point out that one size does not fit all. Marry early and it works, then that was right for that couple. Wait til later and you’re both content, then more power to you. It really boils down to the question: are both parties committed to making the relationship work, and are their personal visions of what that means compatible.

      2. Makes the potential bloom. Part of the problem with marrying equals is that there’s less demand for the “protection” potential to bloom, so it has to wait for kids, and a lot of folks put off kids until they’re “more responsible.”

        I’ve seen pets used as a work-around, though.

  3. When should humans marry? When Dad appears at the door with a white-painted shotgun (formal ceremony, natch)?

    OK, I’ll go get caffeinated and read the entire essay. *slinks off*

    1. I have friends who married with her father carrying a shotgun behind his back. It was a practical joke he paid for by sleeping in the barn for over a month, before he was allowed back in the house for other than meals.

      1. *sigh* I fully expect this to have a response along the lines of “how dare SHE do that to him!” in full earnest here….

        Nothing like making your daughter’s wedding day a joke about how she’s sleeping around– good clean family fun for all!

        1. I’m surprised that she didn’t kill him. I know it was supposed to be a joke but ugh! What an asshole! I guess it could also be joking that no man would marry her unless he was threatened. Either way a stupid joke. I could see telling it as a joke, but actually doing it?

          1. Yeah, at the reception making a joke about “well, I didn’t have to bring my shotgun….” or something.

            Definitely a guy joke, but….wow.

          2. This is probably why I “have no sense of humor.”

            I don’t think much of the hooker outfits for my preschooler, either.

          3. See, I didn’t interpret the shotgun as a statement towards the daughter at all, but as something to prevent “cold feet” on the part of the groom.
            Not a very good joke, no, but I read a lot less malice into it than apparently others (including this guy’s wife) did.

            1. In order to parse the appropriateness of the joke it’s necessary to know how the bride felt about it.

              1. heck, it might have been the bride’s idea! i know some who would suggest it & think it funny….

                1. As do I.

                  If dad had a good read on his daughter’s sense of humor and she thought it was funny/was in on it, then the story has a different tone.

        2. Shortly before my father died of cancer, one of my nephews Skype’d with him in order to do an interview (with teacher-provided questions, many of which were redundant or badly-phrased). This was lung cancer*, so he was fighting for breath continuously, which means he was having a hard time tracking, and definitely a hard time responding.

          At one point, my nephew asked him about his wedding and he replied, “I remember there were shotguns.” Which proved that his sense of humor was intact, at least. (The real story was that between Wyoming blizzards and deployment issues, it’s amazing he got there in time for his wedding.)

          *Don’t smoke. Please.

      1. Twelve years ago I had a former coworker who more-or-less ended up the groom at a “white shotgun” wedding, so Mossberg probably would have a market (and with the guys who hunt in the snow). As an aside, the lady at the card shop agreed that it was a difficult sort of thing to find an appropriate card for, but she came through. Tell you what, Hallmark truly does have a card for everything.

    2. I was armed at my oldest son’s outdoor wedding with two pistols and I had a small armory stashed in a nearby vehicle to arm the groomsmen should it become necessary.
      There was a small but real possibility that a former girlfriend with serious mental health issues might instigate a ninja style attack on the ceremony. Later found out that she tried to but was talked down by wiser heads. That those folks knew me and what I was capable of just might have had something to do with their decision to leave us in peace.

  4. It is quite easy to get set in your ways. A couple of decades of living the single life builds a lot of habits about that.

    1. Try four decades of living the single life. [Wink]

      Mind you, even when I was younger I wasn’t in a situation where marrying was a “good idea” and in many ways I wasn’t a person any sane woman would want to marry.

      Of course, since “marrying was a bad idea then”, I wasn’t looking.

      1. I have two rules in regards to this in my house. (1) The seat will be in the same position I find it when I’m done. (2) If I can see water I’m going to try to hit it.

        The choice is theirs.

        1. It has been my experience that people who share living quarters with cats are prone to leaving the seat — rim and lid — in the down position.

          1. Most definitely. This also has the bonus of closing off something from view that I, for one, consider very unattractive.

            1. On the matter of “attractive”: I have noticed that many people attempt to enhance the visual attractiveness (decrease the visual unattractiveness) through means of encasing the tank and seat lid in matching fabric concealment. While this probably does decrease noise from the system and arguably is an improvement over the white porcelain characteristic of most installations, there is an unfortunate byproduct of this treatment which has likely escaped the notice of most female users but not the males.

              The regrettable fact is that the additional thickness engendered by such (often plush) fabric concealers has a tendency to make the toilet seat unstable in the upright, or raised, position. As consequence the lid will sometimes fall back into its normal, or closed, position without regard to the activities of the person currently using the facility.

              It should not be necessary to dwell on the results beyond noting that they are at best messy and potentially (depending on numerous personal characteristics of the device’s employment) traumatic.

              1. When a guest in someone else’s house, I refrain from commenting on such matters. But it seems to me that a husband could point out to his wife that said coverings present a clear and present danger of damaging certain equipment. And if said equipment were damaged, certain activities that the husband and wife enjoy together would be … severely curtailed.

                I know if I were a woman who enjoyed engaging in such activities with my husband, I would find such an argument quite persuasive, and the offending coverings would be gone pronto.

                1. Annnnnd now we’re circled back around to Cabbage-head, the Wonder Feminist, and her theories of male-mind control. Clearly the commode covers are an attempt, even if only subconsciously, to strike at masculinist privilege where it hurts the most.

              2. Wallabies are short, but for most of us I would assume that the average toilet height would be to low to do damage to our wedding tackle if we are standing upright.

                However, a relative that was staying over for a few days thought they would be helpful and do some housecleaning while I was at work. They swear they never touched the hinges on the toilet. But after they cleaned the bathroom the seat had the disturbing tendency to come down about thirty seconds after having been raised. Giving a guy just enough time to be able to interrupt him mid-stream. It can indeed be messy, and cause a guy to use extreme measures, like pouring saltwater on the hinges to stiffen them up when they prove to not have enough adjustment to cure the malfunction.

      2. You know how annoying it is to have to lift the toilet seat every time you want to take a leak?

        I don’t know what women are complaining about, they have to bend over and sit down, so it is no big deal for them to lower the seat.


        1. For sanitary purposes the toilet seat should always be lowered before flushing. The swirling whirlpool of the flush produces a fine aerosol mist of biological entities you would be happier not meeting in a dark hallway.

          1. I assume you meant seat and lid, right? I’ve read this, but never seen numbers to back up the assertion. What’s the concentration of said bacteria, as compared to, say, the concentration found in one cc of solid waste? Or the concentration found in the air at normal times?

            Before I go repeating this datum to people whom I know to be prone to pseudo-science hysteria (“Oh noes! The climate is warming! WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!!!!”), I’d like to know whether they really should be concerned, or whether the concentration increase is a mere 0.1% (or whatever) and they would panic over nothing.

            That said, it’s my habit to always close the seat and lid before I flush. Keeps the smell down.

            1. Yeah – seat assembly, including lid.

              It has been so long since I saw the studies that I can’t offer chapter & verse (surprisingly, as a corporate accountant, fecal spew is not an area of common concern to me*.)

              A [SEARCHENGINE] query on “how much bacteria is spread by leaving the toilet lid up” produces numerous hits, including this WebMD article:
              Germs in the Bathroom
              Changing a few habits and doing some spring cleaning around the calendar can help keep your bathroom sterile. Check out these 10 tips.
              Always flush with the lid down.
              According to Charles Gerba, PhD, a professor of microbiology at University of Arizona in Tucson, flushing the toilet with the lid up is not wise. “Polluted water vapor erupts out of the flushing toilet bowl and it can take several hours for these particles to finally settle — not to mention where,” he says. “If you have your toothbrush too close to the toilet, you are brushing your teeth with what’s in your toilet.”

              I do recall a counter argument included in one article, claiming that the air movement engendered by raising the closed lid does almost as much to disperse germs as the original flush.

              *Make your own jokes about corporation’s accounting and fecal spew.

            2. I don’t know how much is carried in the aerosolized water, but I do know that the Mythbusters did an episode (one of the few where they did a rather well-designed experimental setup) where they found that yes, proximity to the toilet increased the concentration of fecal coliform bacteria (though not as much as you might expect), but they also found that the toothbrushes that they kept covered by a glass in the kitchen, and washed with distilled water once a day, still got contaminated to some extent.

              Basically, it didn’t turn out to be as important as they thought, because it’s literally everywhere.

              1. I enjoyed that episode!

                Made me pretty sure that the experts that were sure that “contaminated water” did it just made the mistake that the fecal-related bacteria indicated a direct link.

          2. Do you get strong by avoiding lifting heavy things?

            Do you get fast by not running?

            What makes you think your immune system stays effective if you kill off all the wimpy bacteria?

        2. I don’t find lowering and then raising a toilet seat difficult. It’s much easier than washing dishes or doing laundry.

        3. My beloved Mother had been known to say that there are more important things to complain about than how the toilet seats were left.

          Of course, she survived Dad’s crazy sense of humor (which I inherited) so how Dad or me left the toilet seats didn’t bother her.

        4. My son is going to be told that if he wants to leave the toilet seat up, then he can clean until it’s acceptable to his grandmother’s standards. For some reason the joints in that dang thing rust overnight.

          For myself, I think it’s silly to leave a toilet in a position that only one quarter of users should be using it for! That’s like having the Coronado bridge shift the lanes so the fewest number of lanes are on the side where flow of traffic is….. (Something I wouldn’t put past California, if not for the high number of Little Old Ladies To Be Feared living on Coronado.)

          1. “For myself, I think it’s silly to leave a toilet in a position that only one quarter of users should be using it for! ”

            Exactly! Since men urinate twice as often as women (except for pregnant women) it is ridiculous that women have a tizzy about the seat being up.

            1. Given that the “reason” I have heard most is, “I don’t want to go into the bathroom in the dark and wind up falling in,” my contention is that it is a conspiracy to make any untoward bathroom event always the man’s fault: If he forgets to put the seat down, and they have an accident, it’s his fault. On the other hand, if HE goes in the dark, and forgets to put it UP beforehand, then they wind up getting wet when they sit down, again, it’s his fault.

              1. I wasn’t forgetting it, I was just ignoring it, because it is nowhere near half of the equation. Statistically I can’t give you exact numbers, but I and everyone else I know pees a heck of a lot more often than they defecate.

                1. And I am mainly arguing because I like to argue. I find the subject mildly irritating, but also amusing, because I have no doubt these complaints and counter complaints will continue for as long as there are toilets with raisable seats.

                  So don’t take anything I say on the subject to seriously.

                    1. I appreciate the thought, but bidets strike me as unAmurrican decadence. Heated seats are for wusses. I want one of those Japanese ones which not only samples my output to provide regular updates on acidity, glucosity and similar health metrics but also plays music while you tinkle.

                    2. It sorta depends on what you’re in there to do, donnit? For some activities Ravel’s Bolero is eminently appropriate, for other purposes Offenbach’s Gaîté Parisienne —

                      — is very well suited. (I confess that as a youngster I was a very enthusiastic fan of Harecules Hare.) Still, I have heard some people praise Enesco’s Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 in A major, while others speak highly of the 1812 Overture by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (although I confess I find it suitable only for projectile vomiting.)

                  1. We need a “whose line is it anyways” type theme for these kind of arguments!

                    “Where the points don’t matter and the rules are made up anyways.” or something.

                    Calvin ball debate!

                    1. Frequency of urination also depends on one’s state of health. Frequent urination can be a symptom of diabetes.

                    2. I am still struggling with the grammatical implication that Foxfier knows lots of women who use the toilet more than they use guys … and desperately trying to avoid speculation about those uses.

                    3. Emily,
                      Frequent urinate can be a sign of a lot of things, but usually it just means you are getting close to enough coffee. 😉

                    4. emily61,

                      I, too, am diabetic, and have the same predisposition to attribute frequent urination to Something Bad.

                      But then, I’m also a Mormon, so drinking lots of coffee qualifies. 😀

      3. If you have his and hers bathrooms, it won’t matter because he’ll do that only in his bathroom.

        1. Yes it will; I’m the one who sweeps, mops, and cleans catboxes. Mainly because I’m the one who can bend over without stressing steel pins and plates, so there’s a sound reason.

          Although, at least it means there would be no wet-butt surprise waking me from almost-fully-asleep to fighting-mad-and-pissed. I can avoid that trap any time but when I’m so asleep that nightlights hurt my eyes for being too bright.

          Right, next living quarters: two shared bathrooms. That’ll go on the wishlist right under “More kitchen counter space!”

          1. I recall an article (in the Wall Street Journal, IIRC) a few years back on an increasingly popular trend toward dual toilet bathrooms, the second toilet being a urinal (using much less water per flush*) for the man of the house.

            *On related note, a recent trip to Home Depot for a replacement gasket for one of our commodes revealed a broad selection of “dual-flush” units, offering less water flushes for those occasions where appropriate. Unhappily, the government standards do not appear to allow a return to the old-rule high volume flush for bulk disposal.

            1. Did you know there’s a market in bootleg black-market large-capacity toilets, smuggled across the border and sold as “refurbished”?

              It makes sense, once I heard about it, but I’d never imagined it until then. And darn it, the article didn’t say where to go get one!

              1. Go to your local Lowe’s or Home Depot early in the morning, approach the group of men huddled outside the contractor entrance and ask “I’m looking to score a pot.”

              2. Didn’t know about across-the-border, but I did know that for a while after that regulation, toilets from old houses which were being torn down became in big demand.

              3. They are legally available in TX. They are sold as industrial/commercial grade toilets. We put them in our house when we were redoing our plumbing after we moved in.

                  1. Come in the winter. Last week it was 13 degrees F Today it’s 45 degrees F. I’m just north of Dallas in N TX.

                    1. You want to be very careful about such discussions. Bad as it might be to get arrested for “Smuggling illegal toilet across state lines,” think how horrible it would be to be put on trial for “Conspiring to smuggle illegal toilet across state lines.”

                      If not careful it is possible to face a charge of Racketeering incorporated into the charges.

                    2. They can have my toilet when they pry my cold dead a** off of it…

                      But who’d want it then?

                1. Not sure if they are still available here, but as of about ten years ago when I built my house they were. And yes they are classed as industrial/commercial, getting around the regs at that time, I haven’t checked lately because toilets are not something I buy regularly. I made sure and buy a good one the first time (I think I’ve used a plunger once in ten years).

  5. Fun topic!
    When is the best time? Wow.
    My mother-in-law knew, when she met my father-in-law, that she would marry him. She was 11. They married when she was 16, he 17 and in the Navy. He died in 2002 and she’s been single since.

    I met my wife, and after knowing her for 9 days I told her I loved her and wanted to marry her. She told me I was crazy. I’ve never denied that – but HEY! – I’m an Odd. We’ve been married 31 years so far.

    One of my sons-in-law I threatened to rip off his head and spit down the hole if he messed with my daughter. They’ve been married over 5 years and have a beautiful and talented daughter. And this man once walked 2 miles in a snow storm to the store for her, then 2 miles back.

    When is the best time to marry? I married 9 months after I met my bride; our first child together was born 9 months and one week afterwards. (There were CATS counting the days.)

    My afore-mentioned daughter wanted to marry when she was 16 – they were engaged 5 years before tying the knot.

    It happens best when people are ready for it. I was 29. My best man is still unmarried, and likely to remain so.

    I like hearing the background stories of peoples marriages.They can be stranger than fiction.

    1. The backstory of our marriage? Well, it was certainly odd. We met in 1983 when I had a summer job on a Navy base (and how I came to get that job is a story in itself, but it’s too long to tell right now) and Jim was a civilian contractor on his first job out of college. We joined the same RPG gaming group.

      Jim moved out of state in the middle of the summer, and he wanted to keep up with the doings of the group. Not so much with me, at that point; I was rather afraid of him because he rode a motorcycle and Mother had told me about boys who rode motorcycles. 🙂 But I was the only one in the crowd who answered his letters (snail mail, of course; this was before the Internet). So we fell into the habit of regular correspondence, and we became friends on the strength of a letter a week. In 1986, when I went to grad school, he was only two hours’ drive away, so we began to see each other every few weekends and make the fortune of MCI (which offered comparatively cheap long-distance calls, for the time, this being the early days of deregulation). At the time we got married, except for that first summer, we’d never lived within a hundred miles of each other.

    2. I met my husband when I was 38 or 39. I knew from when I met him that I wanted to marry him. It was love at first sight. We just clicked. I knew that he was the one for me. We’ve been married for 13 years now. Counting the years we’ve been married is a little confused because we had two weddings one year apart. These have been the best years of my life.

    3. I love the family joke about my grandparents– they were very slow to get married, you see.

      Grandfather and his buddy rode bikes around the north west, doing odd jobs, and stopped in a small town. They BOTH met a pair of girls who worked at the courthouse and fell hard… his friend married less than a month after meeting the lady for the first time, and it took two months and change for my grandparents to marry!
      (Both lasted over fifty years and were only ended by time.)

      Not that they learned, my folks met and married and it was supposed to be a bad idea because it was less than a year, and they were “too old” at 26 and 31.

    4. Oh, and my husband and I– I got to the ship while it was 8 months into a 9 months without shoreleave deployment.

      One of the guys in my shop grabbed my tray while I was getting a drink and informed me I would not be eating alone, plopped it down in the middle of the Geek Group and did a quick introduction. He was the guy who was mildly intimidating, since he was scowling, pale and looked unshaven.
      (That’s his “thinking” look when he’s tired, I’ve found– and it also keeps people from harassing him. He’ll go without sleep to help you if you need help and he’s the one who can do it, and has no sense of when to say “that’s enough, I need to take care of myself.”)

      At every point, that he’ll even consider me has been a shock, and one that’s a sheer delight. (He gave up on flirting and finally just said “I’m going to kiss you now, alright?” to get the point across.)

    5. My husband and I met in our college’s Honors Program. That had twenty students per class year, roughly ten males and ten females, though there were occasional variations. My older brother was also in the Honors Program. At one point, he made sure to warn me about my future husband, as he was certain he was a player. His warning to Evil Rob was more succinct: “You’re my little brother [Honors sponsorship thing]; she’s my little sister. Enough said.” He has since forgotten that he ever did this. My husband and I will be celebrating thirteen years of marriage next week.

      The *real* funny story, though, is intra-Honors relationships. Evil Rob’s class warned my class against “Honors incest” (dating within the program) since that never led to anything good. Naturally, four people from each class ended up marrying within the program—three couples between our two classes, and one from each class marrying outside our two years. All of the marriages are still going strong, as are the other Honors marriages I know about.

  6. My husband and I waited seven years from the time we first met, and five years from the time we first realized we were serious about one another, to marry. That was because we were both children of divorce and we were utterly convinced that marriage would ruin our beautiful friendship. I was 27 when we finally went to the altar and he was 31. That was 24 years ago this month.

    We have often wished since that we had married when we first realized we loved each other, especially since we’ve never managed to have children.

    I think that’s the worst thing divorce does to kids; it makes them marriage-shy in the next generation. I also question the article that’s been making the rounds of news sites lately, saying that “boys are hurt worst by divorce and never get over it; girls seem to recover within a year or two”. If (as the same article claims) boys “act out” their anger and sadness at a divorce, while girls internalize it, how would the researchers know?

    1. I think that’s the worst thing divorce does to kids;

      My mother filed for divorce about 10 days after my (now) wife and I announced our engagement.

  7. How old is the right age for marrying?

    When is a wine ripe for drinking?

    How high is up?

    How low is down?

    You are old enough to marry when you are at an age you are able to a) make and keep a commitment b) to tell when somebody else is ablemake and keep a commitment c) old enough to forgive your spouse (or your self) for being human.

    And when this question’s answer is clear.

  8. A friend of mine used to joke about the “double quinceañera,” when a woman of thirty completes her doctorate and enters the marriage market.

    People like Alan MacFarlane and Emmanuel Todd make a case that the British Isles have a distinctive family structure that uniquely predisposes people to favor individual liberty. One feature of that structure seems to be comparatively late marriage. That might be all correlation rather than causation, though.

    1. My turn-of-the-last-century ancestors from Sweden (half the family came to America, half didn’t) the women (out of 16 surviving children in that family) seem to have all married in their mid-20’s. It’s somewhat apocraphal that back then (1900-ish) girls married young. They didn’t all. Particularly, it would seem, among lower classes who worked for a while. Delaying marriage also solved birth control issues. So one after another after another married “late”… 25, 26, 27… and all of them married men a couple of years younger than they were… and then all of them (but one or two) went on to have 8 or 9 children.

  9. As I understand it (I didn’t watch the video clip) the Duck Dynasty guy was talking to a boy (young man?) at a church retreat or some such, and it was in the context of a 17 year old marrying his 15 year old sweetheart instead of thinking that waiting until they were older made it better or that they couldn’t know anything when they were so young. So he wasn’t telling middle aged guys to marry teenaged girls.

    But I’d say to that, too… marriage with a largish age difference, particularly if your society expects men to marry when they’re financially able and women to marry when they’re 17, is not the same thing as an older person hooking up or “dating” someone who is very young. Marriage at least confers legal power and social standing, even “way back when”.

    I have a couple of stories (loooong in development) where the girl *has* to be a certain age. In one she *has* to have very recently reached puberty, in the other she graduated from high school and joined the Air Force. So… 13 and 19? And they were romances and the men were much older and it seemed *right* that they were much older because they *needed* to be much older to balance power between them because the 13 year old was bonded with a sentient spaceship and the 19 year old was a monster.

    But I worried that I couldn’t get away with even the 19 year old being so young, nevermind the 13 year old.

    1. Heh. Anybody recall a decade or so back when it was revealed that it was mostly older guys (ministers, teachers, etc.) who were responsible for knocking up the young girls of the African-American community? Significant age differential is okay for exploiting the young, apparently, but not for “doing right” by them.

      1. A family member started tutoring at a local (to him) high school after he retired. Said school has facilities for students with small children. He was surprised to see all the “motherly girls” (his term) being dropped off by lovers in their 30s-40s. 90% of the young mothers were Latino or African-American (the school was 50% minority, 20% Southeast Asian, 30% Anglo). This was, oh, eight or nine years ago.

      2. Yes. And I think that’s a really important distinction.

        Girls in my high school (and I’m just going to assume it really hasn’t changed) *particularly* those without a lot of ambition or from poorer families could become instant adults in society by having a baby. It’s *rational* to become a teen mother. Accepted young marriage in a society gives the same social status with a whole lot less carnage than unwed motherhood.

        Which I suppose is related to what Sarah said about men “growing up”. Being married gives guys instant adult status, too, along with the responsibilities. Now it’s just all baby-daddy all the time.

        Sexual maturity happens when it happens and biology wants what it wants. I’m not saying that to give permission to teenagers to have sex because as I said yesterday, we’re thinking creatures, not bunnies. But putting off marriage until the mid-30s assumes that everyone *behaves* as if they are married before then, sexually active and in relationships. So? The point is?

        I suppose my answer to Sarah’s question is – humans should marry a few years after they reach sexual maturity and their full growth… 20-ish. AND they should view choosing that partner as a serious process of finding someone to build a life with and not an accident they had no control over.

        1. (Do I have to say “in general terms unless you haven’t found the right person” and marriage at all is optional?)

      3. I remember it being buried under— and the examples were always (white) trailer park girls and loser 30 year old guys, not the big sex predator problem in the inner cities.

      4. It was (or wasn’t *just*) the ministers and teachers.

        A friend (is it considered “former” if he’s dead?) once arrested a couple young “men” in their early 20s who were feeding some sort of sickly sweet brandy concoction to some 14/15 year old girls. One of whom was already passed out.

        After 50 years of the War On Poverty AA illegitimacy rates have gone from ~23% to ~70%.

        1. For which I primarily blame the welfare system that provides child support to single parents (which usually means single moms) for up to three kids, but doesn’t provide said support to married couples. It’s as if they wanted to incentivize single-parent households… when the one factor that best predicts whether a child will successfully escape poverty is “Does he/she come from a two-parent household?”

  10. Based on my personal experience, the examples of my Parents and my In-laws, one should get married when one has found a best friend of the opposite sex. Someone who will be a partner, and tolerate you in the stretches when even YOU don’t like you very much. Passion will come and go. Friendship will keep you warm in between.

  11. I always found logical errors in this argument against marrying young: “You’re not the same person at 30 as you were at 20.”

    Unless you’re planning to be married for a decade at a time on a 10 year contract, you’re not going to be the same person at 40 as you were at 30 either… or 50 as you were at 40 (and the dread mid-life crisis)… or 60 as you were at 50…

    Besides, IME, people are *exactly* the same person as they always were when it comes to the fundamentals, barring mental illness. Our personalities don’t change that much. Our interests might change. We might discover new activities. We might get excited about new things or find the backbone or tact (either/or) to be public about what we always thought. We might discover a cause or God… But we really don’t change very much.

    And how hard is it, really, to cheer-lead your partner when they aren’t precisely on the same page as you at the same time. Did someone tell you this would be effortless?

    1. You also won’t be the same person at 30 that you would have been if you hadn’t married.

    2. The biggest difference is that at 30 you’ve had a few corners knocked off and know more about what to look for.

      My daughter (the older one) married the Love Of Her Life at 21. They’d been dating for 2-3 years. He has a health problem that guarantees he’ll be dead by 50.

      She’s now 23 and just wants him out of her life.

  12. Marriage needs to take place right around then. Seriously. At just about exactly that point. Yup. Think I’m not being specific enough? Well, I’m certainly not being specific. Enough? Well, that depends on your point of view. To me, marriage is about commitment and working together. Let me illustrate further.

    Right after I got out of high school, I dated a girl named Jessie. She was a very attractive young lady and was probably a bit too young for me at the time, but whatever. We dated for about six months or so before we split. She was a self-described bitch and proud of it, but she knew who she was and what she wanted. Things didn’t work between us but there was just something solid about that girl and I knew that at the time. She ended up married at the age of nineteen to a man a year or two older. Everyone said it wouldn’t work. She’s still married now and in her mid thirties. They’ve had their ups and downs but they’ve somehow pulled through.

    Then there was my “marriage.” I was twenty-nine and Nicole was thirty-two. The woman I was married to was either incapable of negotiating or unwilling to do so. Everything had to be her way or her mothers. She went to mom’s house every day literally. At one point Nicole had gone something like eight months without ever driving home after work without going to her mom’s for dinner. Nicole would not go on vacation without her mother either. She bought cars when I didn’t think we should and went so far as to tell my mother that she couldn’t be at the hospital when our youngest daughter was born. This occured over my objections and after I refused to call and tell her not to show up myself. Disagreeing with her was “abuse,” If she got in my face screaming and I walked out of the room, I was being abusive. No reason was ever given for why my mom couldn’t be there either. When I actually filed for divorce I was told that it was “a joke” and “You don’t want a divorce you’re just trying to be mean to me.” She would sit and cry if she got a cold and when my gout flared and I drove forty-plus miles one way to work, put in an eight hour day and then drove home I was expected to show up at her mother’s house for dinner and “stop being a whiner.” Whiner my ass. If my doctor had found out that I got out of bed, let alone went to work, he’d have lost it. I got yelled at for bothering her at a baby shower when I called her to tell her my Godmother had passed and she refused to go to the funeral as well because it was a long drive and she thought it was more important to get plenty of sleep. We ended up divorced.

    Granted I wasn’t the perfect husband either, but I at least TRIED. I went to her mom’s house every day for six years before I couldn’t deal with it anymore. I went with her to buy the car I didn’t want because buying cars together is part of being married. I went to holiday/birthday parties with her because that’s another part of marriage, but my kids hadn’t been to their aunts for Christmas ever while we were married. They went this year for the first time because that was the first year I had them for the holiday post-divorce. My stepsister has had this party every year. My oldest will be eight in a week and a half. They’ve never missed the party on their mom’s side and I was there with them every year until the divorce. I had a commitment but she didn’t. It was all about her and not about us.

    Do I think that’s because of age though? No. I know another couple, Holly and Achim, who got married later in life. They have a couple of kids now, the oldest just entering junior high. They’ve had some problems here and there but they’ve worked through them. Some of it has been cultural because Holly is American and Achim German. There are times when they just don’t see things the same way. Nevertheless they’ve made it through and are still married.

    The difference is that the two of them were prepared to work together. They’ve weathered a few pay-cuts for her husband (he works in the automotive industry. It was take a paycut or lose his job.) and some losses of family members together. They don’t always see eye to eye but there is enough commitment and emotional maturity to get through it.

    I see that as the biggest difference. I married a five-year old in a thirty-two year old’s body. She had no commitment to anyone but herself and saw no reason to compromise ever. Other people have spouses who will work with them. The people who work together stay married. It’s the maturity to make that commitment that matters, not the age of the people in the marriage. So yep, it should happen right about then. “Then” being when a person is mentally and emotionally ready for it and not a specific amount of years after birth.

    1. I doubt that another 10 years will teach your ex to think of others before herself or 20 years, or 30 years. When she’s the grandma she won’t understand why her kids or grandkids have to go to inlaws houses for Christmas sometimes.

      My thesis is that someone who is *going* to grow up, will do so in their teens and early 20s. You might not find them then, but they’ve been there since then.

  13. Three of my sisters were married before they were 21. Two of them have divorced at least once and the other has had some real domestic problems. One of my brothers was married at 17 and is on his third marriage. Those of us who married late (late 20 to early 30s) are still married. Of course two of us didn’t have children and the rest had one. The ones who married early had a lot of children. So I think early marriage is more for children than we think. Later marriages seem to be for companionship.

    If I hadn’t left the small town where I had been raised, I wouldn’t have found anyone and would have probably have been a strange aunt. In the area I grew up in, 21 was an old maid.

  14. Apparently the age of first marriage for “middle class” Americans has been increasing over the past 5 years, in part because of the economy. We’re easing back to the late medieval/ early modern pattern of both partners working to build a financial reservoir before marrying, since times are uncertain (and now there’s the debt loads so many college students pick up).

      1. IIRC, they both lived with their parents. Part of the “costs” of marriage was the cost of setting up a home for the newly married couple.

        1. They lived with their parents, or got room and board with their employer as part of their wages.

  15. I got married when I was 29 (husband the same age). I got really, *really* annoyed when people like Dr. James Dobson would get after women for putting off marriage for a career, because I would have loved to marry sooner.

    Seperately, when we saw Mamma Mia at Starlight Theater, I was most annoyed that the daughter was marrying at what the characters thought was the most absurdly young age of twenty. Completely unthinkable! (Riiiight.)

    I had another thought, but it vanished.

  16. I think it depends on the person (as other commenters have stated). I also think that people have lost some understanding of the concept of commitment.

    I was married at 18 (he was 23). I was very mature for my age and it was a situation where we either get married, or attempt a long distance relationship with little money for trips to see each other. Everyone—left and right alike—was convinced we would end up divorced and miserable because I was too young. Oddly enough, His brother married the same summer as we did, with both partners at a more socially acceptable age (21, I think?), and about 3 years in she went a little stir-crazy and divorced him because he wasn’t fun enough. And then she got married and divorced again. Two divorces by age thirty. Dunno. People always seemed to admire her maturity, and were worried for my husband because I have something of a temper.

    To some extent I think that success in marriage depends on how well you cope with hardship and change—whatever form it comes in—both as an individual and as a couple. My husband and I have been through Hell and high water, as they say, but are still together 12 years later. 18 isn’t for everyone, but honestly, if 18 is old enough to die in a war, it’s probably old enough to get married, even in this culture.

    1. I got married at 22 for much the same reasons. All the friends who told us that we’d be divorced within the year are now divorced sometimes multiple times. BAH.

  17. Before reading the other comments (so sorry if I have duplicated):

    I think much of the question is dependent on how children are raised, and what expectations they are given. If they are raised with an understanding that they should work together with their mate to grow into a strong mutual partnership for raising children and building a good home (not the physical structure), then it is probably better for at least one of them to be rather young. Perhaps as young as 16. This way, one will be more likely to be mentally flexible enough to learn to adjust to their partner. It’s a plus if they can both make adjustments, but in a case where having a stable financial situation is difficult, it is probably better for the man to be established somewhat before he marries a significantly younger woman.

    Obviously, for the purpose of raising children, women should start younger, because that’s the biological nature of mankind. Young mothers, on average, have easier pregnancies and births.

    In modern, first-world times, however, with the importance of large families significantly diminished, and “being yourself” so much more emphasized, it’s entirely possible that many people should wait until they are older, so that they can give a more mature appraisal of their potential life partner before making that decision. This is assuming, of course, that they actually try to make a mature decision, and not simply act like a child, as so many do.

    1. My health class teacher claimed teen pregnancy had many more health risks than pregnancy in your twenties. I wonder if this is actually true or is just a cultural aversion to teen motherhood.

      1. When girls are still growing it’s probably true. But that’s generally a matter of “teen” really meaning ages 10-15. And if “twenties” really means “17-25.” But getting married and having babies in your 20’s is considered way too early these days too.

        1. Most of those, it turns out, are a result of the social class of the mother, and her bad judgment.

          Like the factor that best predicts that the baby will die: whether the baby is illegitimate. Turns out that women who get pregnant outside wedlock do other stupid things too, like drink, smoke, and do drugs.

      2. I thought, but forgot to include, a mention that there is also a lower limit for that statement about young mothers having an easier time of it. I’m not certain how that is determined, however, but as I understand it, starting between 16 and 18 seems to be reasonably safe, but I may be misinformed.

      3. I’ve got the vague impression that the stats are doctored by comparing totally different stats— I know that “teen pregnancies” is calculated using married 19 year olds, for example, and seem to remember than for very young women they used those who would be statutory rape….. They probably also compared the poor, unmarried 16 year olds to 25 year olds as a whole, meaning the medical care, drug problems and such are much smaller.

  18. I married at 26. I think my mother had given up on me, and may have decided I was Lesbian. Well, didn’t date, worked in San Francisco, I suppose it was logical. Extreme shyness causing extreme professionalism at work and living like a hermit at home to recover, in fact. I jumped at a company transfer to Houston as a way to break my asocial habits. First day I spent here, I dropped by the office, got introduced around, met this cute fellow . . . married him two year later. Next Sunday will be our 34th anniversary.

    I have heard that a focus on learning, AKA college instead of a job, extends the more plastic, youthful, state of our brains. Could explain part of the later marriage phenomenon, but just being in college and financially dependent would do that. And now student loans. Not to mention the Feminazis . . .

    The age at which someone become responsible, as opposed to physically or emotionally mature is so variable, I’d not want to put a firm age to any recommendations.

  19. My wife was 20 (and I was 25) when we married. BTW she did turn 21 about three weeks later. My daughter married when she had just turned 20 (which my wife grumped about as being too young). Next month my granddaughter (my daughter’s oldest daughter) is getting married at 18. She is marrying her high school sweet heart (who is 19). both my wife and daughter are grumpy about the age. OTOH the boy who will become my grandson in law is a good kid. He is in Navy Nuclear School and doing well. So we shall see.
    My youngest son married in his 30’s and to my dismay that did not work out,

    1. He is in Navy Nuclear School and doing well.

      Oh, my, bringing a Nuke into the family? That’s hard core Odd!

      Seriously, though, IF he fails out of the school, please don’t think poorly of him– it’s designed to mimic the absolute worst of the guy you want in charge of being in charge of the reactor when you’re at the bottom of the ocean for months at a time, and the “failures” provide a very nice addition to less insane jobs. (A lot of them go into my rate and job, Aviation Technician, Calibration.)

      Social skills sometimes lacking, but loyal as can be once you win it. (As, obviously, she has if she’s marrying him now.)

      1. If he needs some guidance from someone who has walked through that fire, let me know. Buddy of mine was a Nuke before he got ossified… I mean promoted. *chuckle*

  20. For a young man, not yet: for an old man, never at all.
    — Diogenes, asked when a man should marry

    When should a man marry? A young man, not yet; an elder man, not at all.
    — Sir Francis Bacon, “Of Marriage and Single Life”

    By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll be happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.
    — Socrates

    Those are the three quotes I think of, when this issue comes up. I stand with Diogenes, myself.

    I swear, the amount of crap I had to deal with when it came to the too-young who got married in the service quite destroyed my already-frayed faith and desire to participate in the institution. You marry young, and for the wrong reasons, and it’s a disaster. Marrying late produces the same results.

    Happy medium? Marry somewhere in the middle? Never marry? Throw up your hands, and decry the entire concept, whilst remaining a bachelor?

    There’s no general rule for the thing–Marry when it’s right, for you and your spouse. If it’s not right at the beginning, and doesn’t ever grow towards right, don’t bother with making yourself or others miserable with it. Too many people marry because its an expectation, a norm. They never really commit to it, and the results of that are before us in the divorce statistics.

  21. Looking at the matter in terms of fiction, I think of Louisa May Alcott’s dictum that a wife should be half her husband’s age, plus seven years.

    Over the past couple of years I’ve been following Kaoru Mori’s manga series A Bride’s Story, whose primary focus is on a nineteenth-century Central Asian woman of twenty in an arranged marriage with a husband of twelve. It’s interested me how many online comments have described the story as having no conflict, when to me the conflicts just jump off the page—both the external conflict within Amir’s family, who think maybe they could get her back and marry her to someone more politically advantageous, and the internal conflict within Amir over having to wait till her husband is ready to consummate the marriage. I’ve been told that the “conflict” people expect to see in a story about arranged marriage is that the wife opposes the very concept of arranged marriage, rebels against being involved in one, and detests her husband—so when they see a story where the wife both loves her husband and is eager for a consummation that he’s not ready for, they take that as “no conflict” rather than “not the obvious conflict and therefore more interesting.”

    My girlfriend moved in with me in 1985, when I was 35 and she was just short of 24, which is a close fit to Alcott’s formula; she’s still here, and we’ve been through the rough parts and are happier ever. Over that time we’ve seen many of our friends’ marriages and other relationships break up. I don’t think the legal formalities are the central issue; I think it’s actual intent to stay with the other person.

  22. Hm, complex. Let’s see if I can simplify:

    When you’ve reached the point with a partner that you can realistically make a commitment for the remainder of your life, and keep it.

    Complicated, like all things in marriage, by the need for a second party in the same position.


    1. Making a commitment for the remainder of your life is tough (unless it’s short, but then how many of us really know that for sure?). Making a commitment to right now, tomorrow, and several tomorrows hence is simpler and easier on the nerves. At least at first.

      Friend of mine put it this way. Don’t worry about marrying the person you think you can live with forever. Make damn sure you snag the one you can’t live *without.* Or something like that. *chuckle*

      1. I committed to marrying mine, and then before the ceremony, he went and had a heart attack on me. After they patched up his poor heart, I told him it was til death (permanent, no takebacks or resuscitation allowed to sever this contract!) do us part.

        Still, I know there’s a high likelihood that I’ll be a widow inside a decade. Pay G-d it’s not for another 30 years, but I’ll take every single day He gives us. Knowing that he has more years behind him than ahead has not made the commitment any shallower, or, I think, any easier. It does make moments more bittersweet, as sometimes I think “I really don’t want to do that/buy that/spend that much, but time with Calmer Half is the only thing I can’t make more of / get back.” (This may explain a lot of my approach of “Another gun? Oh, okay. Is it one I’d like shooting? Shall we go shooting with it together some time?”)

        1. You may add the prayers of this curmudgeonly agnostic to that. Peter’s a good man. May you both have many more years of making each other happy.

          My apologies if my comment seemed to make light. Chalk it up to a cynicism I’m still trying to lose. I’ve seen all too many young women chasing older men looking for a free ride for my comfort- that’s not you.

  23. I married for someone to share my life with. He and I complement and help each other. We didn’t want and don’t have kids.

    1. I think that most people know when they’re really young if they want kids or not. Maybe not sure enough to get a permanent sterilization, but still pretty sure that they do or don’t.

      1. I sort of wanted kids — but if Dan didn’t REALLY want kids, I wouldn’t have gone through six years of infertility treatment, because it was so expensive and SO much … trouble.

  24. My paternal grandfather was born in December, 1890, and my paternal grandmother in November, 1895 — my granfather’s second wife (his first died in childbirth. The baby didn’t survive, either). My dad was born in April of 1911. Do the math. They were married until my grandfather died in 1962. My grandmother never even thought of remarrying. She died in 1987.

    My dad was 35 and my mother was 23 when they were married, right after WWII. They were still married when Dad died in 1990.

    I met Jean the first time at Thanksgiving, 1965, at the Denver USO, where we were both volunteers. I put her wedding rings on layaway at the Base Exchange on December 15th, when I got paid. I proposed on New Year’s Day 1966, and we were married February 19th, 1966. We’re still HAPPILY married.

    I know I changed at least three times: right after we were married, when I was in Panama, and when I was in Vietnam. Those were MAJOR changes for me. There were a dozen minor changes. Jean went through some major changes herself, especially when her thyroid stopped working. We were committed to each other, and to our children, and worked through the changes.

    Most girls mature between 16 and 21. Guys usually don’t mature until after they’re 21. While maturity helps, it isn’t half as important as commitment. If the two of you are both committed to make your life together work, it probably will. If you’re not BOTH committed to it working, it probably won’t. Age has very little to do with the commitment or lack thereof.

  25. News story from PJ Media. With all the boys vs girls men vs women stuff on this blog, it somehow seems appropriate. Think of the dumbest cold-weather-related thing you ever saw a boy do in a Christmas movie. Well, in this horrible sub-freezing New England winter, it was a little girl who did it. In East Kingston, New Hampshire, a little girl named Maddie stuck her tongue to a flagpole. She’s doing ok, though I think she’s on a liquid diet for a day or two.

  26. Commenters above have talked about being mature enough to put the children’s needs first … hmmmmm … I don’t know anyone who was that mature at the point of marriage. It’s the having children that really matures a person, the working through of it, and coming out the other side as a giver, no matter how giver/taker one might have been going in. I married at 22 but didn’t have a live child until 35 … and that’s when I start counting myself an adult, because it was far and away an entirely different thing to raise a child compared to living amicably with another person my own age. My female cousin married at 16, bun in oven, to her high school sweetheart age 20. They are still going strong today, maybe 40 years later. There’s no way my cousin was mature enough to marry, much less raise a child, (I can’t speak for him), but she took that mission and made it work. So … I guess I’m saying it’s not about age or some abstract maturity … it’s about the commitment to make it work in spite of the discomforts that come along, so can we call that culture? Culture, yah, that’s it.

  27. The Japanese have a rather sad term for women who aren’t married by their mid-20s – “Christmas Cake”. Because no one wants it after the 25th.

    However, that’s an older term and I’m not sure how much it applies anymore. My understanding is also that the country is starting to have an increasing number of young men who are so self-absorbed in their own little obsessions that even sex holds no real attraction for them. In such an environment, marriage isn’t going to be occurring as often.

  28. Sounds about right. I have a lot of friends who are marrying young, but I truly believe they have found their “one.” I think that’s all that really matters in the end. In marriage, age really is just a number (unless that number is 9, or something).

  29. I just turned 48 on New year’s eve. I’m thinking that I’m probably never going to get married at this point. And seeing the state of Marriage and divorce in this country, I’m coming around to the idea that it might just be better this way. And besides, “MGTOW” sounds so much better than “Loser who can’t get laid.”

    Kind of a shame though, I have four nieces thanks to my oldest and youngest sisters, and they’re all beautiful and talented (and I mean that objectively, one’s a model/actress, and she’s not even in high school). So I ruefully think of the wasted genetic potential I have….

    1. And seeing the state of Marriage and divorce in this country, I’m coming around to the idea that it might just be better this way. And besides, “MGTOW” sounds so much better than “Loser who can’t get laid.”

      You’re not alone in that. I’m 44 and in the same boat.

  30. Had a worrying realization this morning:
    We haven’t gotten rid of young marriage.

    I was having a discussion about a relative with my husband, and was about to compare them to another relative and add “but they’re not divorced.” Technically, they’re not. They lived as husband and wife, formed a household, bought a house– but there wasn’t the legal contract.

    Considering the history of marriage licenses and why they’re granted, is isn’t an improvement.

    The Catholic Church recognizes (simplifying madly) that marriage is a pre-existing thing which the Church recognizes, and it grows out of what people are; we have a minimum of one generation that pretends that isn’t so.

  31. I can’t find my copy of “The Number of the Beast” by Heinlein, but didn’t Dejah Thoris Carter have a comment about the best age difference between women and men for marriage?

  32. When you’re old enough to know better and young enough to do it anyway?

    Oh, wait, that’s what I tell people who want to but don’t need to know my age.

    I was 21 and he was 26 (for a week more) when we got married. I don’t think I was mature enough to put the kids’ needs first until they got here, not that they took long about it. We often tell Eldest (whenever he gets a case of the I wants) that if he really wanted wealthy parents he should’ve waited until later to be born, let us get out of college and work a few years first!

  33. Oddly enough, I’ve recently read a SF novel in which the hero was 18 and the heroine 16 when they met. Though she did hit her birthday a few days in. Romance ensued, quite plausibly.

    These Broken Stars.

  34. Oy, what an interesting subject.

    I come from a long line of bachelors. No, stay with me here. I married at 29, which in my culture (mainstream Mormonism) is definitely considered late for a first marriage. My father married at 28, ditto. My grandfather married at 28, downright elderly for a Mormon farmer in the 1920s. My great-grandfather married at 25, which was still pushing the envelope in 1890s Utah.

    My great-great-grandfather married his first wife at 28, but kind of made up for it by marrying two more over the next decade. This *was* pioneer Utah, after all. My great-great-grandmother was the third wife.

    I would have liked very much to have married younger. On the other hand, given my reputation for sober demeanor and maturity (not!) 29 may have been barely old enough.

    I have a feeling that 18 is not too young if you are raised in a situation where you have to grow up fast. Farm kids who either do their chores or the family starves may be in such a situation. I wonder if our modern aversion to marriage before 25 reflects our willingness to let our adolescents just kind of linger in adolescenthood year after year.

    I’m glad I went to college and then graduate school. I love learning stuff. Most people don’t, I’ve discovered (and it astonishes me), and they really don’t belong in college. Most go anyway for complex social reasons I don’t much like, and one effect seems to be to let them postpone growing up.

    1. “I wonder if our modern aversion to marriage before 25 reflects our willingness to let our adolescents just kind of linger in adolescenthood year after year.”

      Our society’s creation of extended adolescence is among its worse practices.

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