By : John Buri
Not too long ago I had a conversation with a group of recent college graduates (both men and women). To a person, they all agreed that they would not be getting married anytime soon, and several of them were willing to put a number on it — “definitely not until after 30.”
I walked away wondering — Why wait?
Men have long been known for their stiff-arming approach to marriage. But did you know that single women are the fastest growing demographic in the U.S.? The median age at first marriage for women has gone from 21 in 1970 to 27 presently. Furthermore, the marriage rate for women under 35 has declined nearly 50% since 1970 — from 75.5 marriages per 1000 unmarried women to 39.5.
A couple of months ago I had a conversation with a young man named Eric. He is 27 years old. When Eric was in college, he dated a woman (Andrea) whom he described as “the love of my life.” As Eric put it: “Andrea and I got along great. We had chemistry. We could talk for hours. Or we could just hang out, perfectly comfortable simply being together, saying almost nothing. We never seemed to be at a loss for things that we enjoyed doing together. And it stayed this way for over three years.”
What could be better? Eric had found the love of his life. They had chemistry. They were able to communicate. They enjoyed each other’s company. The relationship had shown staying power (thriving for over three years).
But a problem emerged shortly after graduation. Andrea wanted more. She was interested in “a future” together. And the more she wanted to talk about their future, the more Eric pulled away. Within a year, they had split up.
Eric lamented to me: “I have dated a lot of women since then, some more seriously, most less so. But I haven’t found anyone quite like Andrea. I think I blew it. I think I missed out on a wonderful woman. I let her get away.”
I wish I could say that Eric’s situation is unique — that very few people begin to think after breaking up that they’ve blown it, that they’ve passed on a person who would have made a great life companion. But unfortunately, I can’t. I’ve heard it dozens of times: men and women who realize (almost always too late) that they let a really good partner get away.
I suspect that nearly all of us are familiar with the studies reporting that age at marriage and marital success are inversely related — in other words, the earlier you marry, the less likely you are to experience marital success.
In light of such studies, it is only logical to wait. And we are led to believe that the longer you wait, the better.
But did you know that this is only true up to about age 22? If you marry prior to 21 or 22 years old, then the probability of marital success goes down drastically. But after age 22, this is no longer true.
In fact, recent evidence has suggested that the highest quality marriages are found among those who married at ages 22 – 25.
Furthermore, recent evidence has revealed that couples who wait until after 30 to marry run the risk of ending up with poorer quality marriages. As many people over 30 can attest, as people get older, they tend to get “set in their ways” — and this is one characteristic that is notoriously detrimental to the type of mutual give-and-take that is so essential to close, loving, caring and giving relationships.
Obviously, this does not mean that all marriages that occur after the age of 30 are doomed to mediocrity, but it does suggest that such marriages may require a modicum of extra time, energy, effort, attention and give-and-take if they are going to be successful.
But I am still left with my query: Why wait?
If a woman has the desire and the intention of marrying and this woman has found someone who would make a wonderful traveling companion along the journey called life, then why not seize the opportunity and make it official? Why not marry this person?
John R. Buri, Ph.D., is a professor of Psychology at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He is the author of the book How To Love Your Wife. He also has published over 75 articles, questionnaires and professional papers. John has spent 20+ years working with couples and has extensive experience doing marriage prep and marriage enrichment with groups in the upper Midwest.
This article was reprinted with permission from “Love Bytes: Insights on Our Deepest Desire”, a blog of PsychologyToday.com.