I was having a discussion the other day with some of my friends about dating, marriage, and relationships. My friends, who were all in their late 20′s, didn’t see anything wrong or misguided with explicitly postponing marriage so they could travel and/or do other exciting things. One of the guys in particular said just that–he was happy to wait until he was in his 30′s to “settle down,” because he wanted to travel. If a girl comes by that knocks his socks off, fine, but until then, why settle? That was the sense I got from him, anyway.
My own perspective is that the people who do this often miss a pretty significant downside to postponing marriage. Sure, there are legitimate reasons for doing so–a person might have just gotten out of an intense relationship, and might need some time to recover, so to speak–but often the reasons are weak, having to do with wanting to extend adolescence (“adultolescence,” as some sociologists have coined this period), selfishness, avoiding responsibility, or having a wrongheaded vision of God’s purpose for marriage.
I shared one of the downsides with my friends in the conversation: the longer you wait, the more the habits of singleness become ingrained in you. You become “set in your single ways,” and this can make it quite hard to adjust in a marriage. When you’ve been living by your own clock for your whole life, it can be quite a shocker to suddenly have to start living by someone else’s clock…more so than if you marry at an earlier age where you are more moldable.
One of the ladies in the discussion expressed some doubt. “You can still have an others-centered life in community as a single. What about roommates or church friends?” she noted.
Her view of singleness seemed to be that it is a sort of “marriage incubator” that prepares a person for marriage.
Yes, you can have good community as a single person. Yes, you must think about others ahead of yourself when you have roommates. Yes, God can mature you while single. No beef there. But all too often, singleness is not the “incubator” that some think it is when it comes to marriage.
The reason is that even when you have roommates, even when you serve in a plethora of ministries in church, you still call the shots. Of course, ultimately, God calls the shots whether you are married or single; I’m not disputing that. All I’m saying is that when single, if you don’t like your roommates, you can get new ones. If you have conflict in your ministry, you can find a new niche. If you want to go to Vegas, you don’t need to get a roommates’ ok when single…not so much in a marriage. We are pretending if we think all those years of calling the shots ourselves won’t make it more difficult to adjust in a marriage.
As I said in a past post:
Ladies: age doesn’t necessarily guarantee maturity in a man. Yes, sometimes it does, but if you needlessly delay marriage, you might turn 30 or 35 only to find out many men your age have been hugely affected by their years of playing the field, going dirt biking with the bros on the weekends, and playing video games. That’s not a good formula for a husband. The ones who are good husbands now took that vocation seriously in their early 20s and got down to business. Sometimes, the guys who are still single are passive when it comes to marriage and they have been allowed to be that way.
Don’t misread me: I’m not saying that if you are single in your late 20s or 30s that it’s your fault or that you are immature.
All I’m suggesting is that you can’t just turn off the independent living switch when you get married. It takes work, and turning off the switch is much, much harder when it’s all you’ve known for an extended period of time.
I’m finding that almost 30 years as a single person is making it difficult to adjust to a dating and engagement relationship! I’m not even married yet, and I’m feeling the heat!
This isn’t just conjecture, by the way. There is some research that backs this up. The research suggests that 23-27 is the hot spot for marital satisfaction as far as age is concerned. Sure, you can beat the odds–as an almost 30 year old single, that’s my hope–but that’s the trend, at any rate. I know correlation doesn’t imply causation, so I’d be foolish to suggest that you’ll have a happier marriage just because you marry within that window, but the finding is interesting.
This does not mean that the older you get, the less likely it is that you’ll find a suitable mate. God is not bound by odds, and there are always “fish in the sea,” as they say. Nor does this mean that if you haven’t married by a certain age, that you are needlessly “putting it off.” Some people are single not for lack of trying.
There are, however, an increasing number of people who are explicitly postponing marriage until later in life (we’re not talking about a 20 year old who wants to wait until she’s graduated college), and these people might be in for more than they’re bargaining for.