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How Has the Average Age at Marriage Changed over Time?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 23, 2024
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The average age at marriage has risen in most industrial countries. Even countries with less development, or who have come lately to industrialization show a rise in the average age at marriage for women. These statistics may reflect a greater feminist stance in most countries, with more women working and completing college. As well they reflect a trend away from marriage in the US. Fully one-half of the US population is now unmarried.

If one looks at US statistics over the past 100 years for example, one sees that men had an average age at marriage of 25.9 years in 1900. Women in 1900 had an average age at marriage of 22 years. For some this shatters an illusion that women 100 years ago were sold into marriage as young children.

Even Jane Austen, writing in the early 19th century had heroines married at the earliest age of 17 or 18. In Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, which are semi-autobiographical, her father would not allow her to marry until she was 18. Thus it can be said that the average woman was past 21 when entering her first marriage, 100 years ago.

In other cultures, age at marriage may be slightly lower. For example, in Mexico the mean age of marriage currently is 23.3 years for men and 18.4 years for women. This has increased as well, reflecting Mexico’s increasing industrialization.

Currently the average age at marriage in the US is 26.8 years for men, and 25.1 years for women. It is interesting that though this represents an increased age for men, it is not significantly higher than the rate 100 years ago. Actually age rates at marriage for men declined from 1910 through 1960. Lowest average age for marriage in men was in 1960, when the mean age for marriage was 22.8 years.

There are negligible declines in average age at marriage from 1910-1960 in women. However the difference between the 1910 figures and figures in 1960 are less than two years. In men, the difference is a more significant four year spread. However by the 1970s both figures increased. The largest jump in a decade was women’s average age at marriage in 1980 and 1990. In ten years the age rate jumped from 22 years to 23.9.

In fact in the last 20 years, both men and women show a considerable increase in age at marriage. Men are now on average two years older when they marry than the mean age of marriage for men in 1980. Women are three years older on average now, than the mean marriage age in the 1980.

CulturalWorld.org is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a CulturalWorld.org contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon326526 — On Mar 22, 2013

I would have to agree that considering marriage at young age isn't always the legitimate decision to make when it is clear that they may simply not be ready for such commitment. It still depends on the individual.

To some, age can be a factor of concern when considering marriage, yet for those who believe they are with the right person, respect others and are responsible enough to deal with daily life situations, there shouldn't be any problem. I'm 22 and my husband is 28. However, I often hear that I am very mature for my age because of how I act and carry myself. And of course, we are happily married. We have been together for five years.

By anon301645 — On Nov 05, 2012

During your late teens to early twenties, most simply do not want to lay down foundations. In my case, I wanted more out of life. To be precise, I had never had a relationship, never been in love and did not want my first ever relationship to graduate into marriage. I wanted to socialise and, not that I admit it to many, to have had sexual relations with only one man from then on.

The most important issues to remember are the following: Marriage does not always mean you are soulmates. You could be in love with a partner who may not be the one destined for you. There are other factors/people who are more important while you're young, and settling down need not be your only aspiration in life.

Having said that, I couldn't be more happier for the young marrieds commenting here, although they may not speak for the majority of their age group.

However, wishing to settle down as soon as possible shouldn't be looked down upon (whichever direction it leads to!)

By anon284872 — On Aug 12, 2012

One of my friends says that she wants to be married by age 25 and wants to have all of her children by then. Me and another friend both agree that we would rather wait until we are 25 to settle down with somebody and have children so we will be finished with school, have a decent income, get whatever we need out of our systems (for instance, I want to travel). But then my best friend says that she won't marry someone until she is in her 40s because she thinks marriage is a waste of money and so is divorce (her parents had been divorced).

What I'm trying to say is that it is all in your own opinion about when you should get married and when you feel you're ready to.

By anon223788 — On Oct 20, 2011

It saddens me to read comments along the lines of "divorce only happens when neither party is willing to work/compromise/etc." I met my husband at 18, we got married when I was 20 and he was 21. Six years later, when I admitted to my grandmother that we were separating, she told me that it was about time. She said that she had never seen anyone try as hard as I had in a marriage, and that in her opinion I should have left him years before. At the time, she was in her mid-80s, and widowed after a 55 year marriage. She doesn't take wedding vows lightly.

It wasn't our age that broke us up. It was his instability, and his inability or refusal to do his part to make things work. You don't need both parties to make a marriage fail, you need both to make one work.

By anon212242 — On Sep 05, 2011

Cell phone continuously attached to vacuous head.

Unable/unwilling to perform even shared household tasks.

Same with cooking. Chock-full of materialism and a severe lack of rationality, self-introspection and overfilled with excess emotionality with minimal critical-thinking skills and basic rationality.

Best to simply shun the vast majority of modern USA females.

So very few are worthy of a decent, moral law-abiding male.

Go adopt a kitty, girls.

The fur face will appreciate being saved and will be more accepting of your immense number of foibles than a decent guy.

By anon163072 — On Mar 26, 2011

Making a marriage work is definitely difficult. I married at 19, a week before I turned 20. My husband was 21 at the time. We were separated by 4,000 miles when we got engaged. He was in the military, and I was a military brat. This was about three and a half years ago. Since then, we have faced numerous trials. several tedious moves, a year-long deployment and many other challenges presented by married life in connection with the military.

I see the chaos it has wrought around me. Divorce runs rampant in the army. We were one of perhaps three young couples out of about ten who made it through my husband's deployment. Long separations and unpredictable schedules have a way of weeding out the faint of heart. I wish I could quote a statistic here, but the statistics on military vs. civilian divorce just aren't easy to find. I believe it is higher, based solely on what I observe around me, though.

Life is both easier, and more complicated than it was in times of old. On one hand, technology has made many tasks much quicker. Gone are the days when we had to wash our laundry and dishes by hand, mix our cookies with a wooden spoon, sew by hand with a needle and thread. The days when to find information, you had to walk to a library and find a book are gone, as are the days when to listen to the song you wanted to listen to required rewinding and fast forwarding through a tape.

I will say that I think that our parents and grandparents had a small taste of the best of both worlds, though. Times were simpler at one point. If my grandmother hadn't wanted to work, it would have been completely acceptable for her to stay home with the children her entire life. Even my mother to some degree, but now it is nearly expected that as a woman I will go and get a college degree and have a job, and to suggest I might want to be a homemaker gets me sneered at. Don't get me wrong: I want an education, and perhaps a career, but I am equally content putting 100 percent of my time and effort into caring for my home and family. It should be an option that does not label me lazy or unmotivated. Yet it does.

In these times, to even make ends meet is nearly impossible without two incomes. Monetary stress was once a burden borne almost entirely by the husband. I love my equality, but the fact remains that sharing that responsibility creates friction, that at some point in history did not exist in quite the same way it does today. This is just one example of the ways that our lives have grown more complicated. That said, I think the world would be a less tense place if we could all walk a mile in each other's shoes, especially across generations. I don't know how hard it was for my grandfather to grow up during the depression and World War II. Similarly, there is no way for him to have a truly all-encompassing grasp on the challenges presented to my generation.

My husband and I both come from different types of homes. His parents are working on their 26th year of marriage. Mine divorced after 10, although to their credit, I believe that the loss of my brother is what caused their marriage to fold. Few couples can survive a tragedy of that magnitude, and I don't think you can hold anyone entirely responsible for crumbling in the wake of such a horrific ordeal. There are some things you just cannot recover from.

The man my mother wound up marrying 10 years after the dissolution of her marriage with my father was a man she had a crush on in high school. How is that for ironic? The man she chose later in life, who is absolutely wonderful, she met in high school. My husband's parents met when they were 19 and 20, both serving in the military overseas.

Someone mentioned that marrying young leaves you vulnerable to growing apart as you mature and change in your early 20s. It can work to your favor as well. At 20 years old, most people are hardly set in their ways. It is hard to adjust to day to day life with someone else in general. Anyone who has ever had a roommate situation go bad will attest to this. Marriage goes above and beyond even that. The habits even your roommate will not subject you to, your spouse will. It is close, and intimate, and it can be a difficult adjustment no matter where you are in life.

Youth can benefit you here. You're still learning who you are, and who better to learn with than the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. You can grow and change together, rather than meeting later on when you are both pretty much whoever you're going to be. Sure you can still adapt and many people do, but it is far easier to adapt when your life is still taking shape, because you can make a future together, rather than trying to include each other in the lives you have already established. It can be done either way, don't get me wrong. People can and do make marriages work later in life. I would say it is easier to do it when you are younger, though, as long as you are driven to make it work.

I think where young marriages fail is when neither person is willing to A) work at it, B) accept that there are going to be times when neither person is thrilled about the outcome of a given situation, and C) understand that despite anything that comes your way, you made the commitment for a reason, and that the bad times pass and when you fight your way through them rather than giving up, the bond you have with your spouse will be that much stronger at the other end of whatever dark tunnel you've found yourselves in.

I also think that perhaps, people who marry when they are a little older might place less value on marriage to begin with. I am not saying they all do. I just think it is a reasonable conclusion that at least some of them do. If you don't value marriage as much as some do, you're not going to be as inclined to work as hard as is necessary to keep it alive.

I think it is maturity versus priority. You have to be mature enough to try to work through it, and your priorities have to be set so that you care enough to work through it. I think the marriages that make it are between individuals who exhibit both of these characteristics. I think age may be an indicator, but it's certainly not the cause.

This post isn't as organized as I had hoped, but I think it gets my thoughts across on a number of the comments that caught my eye.

By ubelzwilling — On Mar 23, 2011

@#43: Thanks for your compliments and the suggestion. They're much appreciated. It had never occurred to me to do such a thing. That's actually my dad's racket; he wrote a book about his fifty-plus-year marriage. (He and my mom got married at 20.) But it's something worth thinking about. Things that make you go "Hmmm..."

By ubelzwilling — On Mar 23, 2011

@anonymous poster at #32: I’ve ignored this for at least a year, but I noticed it again after reading the latest comment. The poster missed the word “predecessors,” and in so doing, misunderstood what I was saying. My point was that, as the average age of marriage has gone up over the past fifty years, the divorce rate has also gone up. The Census Bureau has broken it down quite clearly: Those who got married very young as recently as 1970 have stayed married longer than those over the past twenty years who have been waiting later and later to get married. So again I ask: What’d those youngsters back then know about how to stay married that the late-twenties crowd of the nineties didn’t?

Now as it turns out, what my doubting Thomas commenter thought I was saying and thought was wrong, is also mostly correct. The commenter thought I was comparing people *now* who wait compared to very young people *now* who don’t wait, no doubt believing that the waiters have a much lower divorce rate. That much is true — to a point. Turns out that only applies for the very young — teenagers, basically. In fact, the divorce rate for those who get married at 21 is already quite a bit lower than it is for teenagers.

It is true that those who marry in their mid-twenties fare better than those even in their lower twenties, but here’s the twist: According to several studies, the divorce rate for first marriages starting *in the late twenties and older* is either *no better* than the divorce rate for those marrying in their mid-twenties, or is in fact *higher.*

According to the National Fatherhood Initiative study “With this Ring: A National Survey of Marriage in America,” released in 2005, the quality of marriages of those first marrying in their late twenties and beyond *is worse* than those marrying in their mid-twenties. That is, there appears to be an optimal age — the mid-twenties — for successful first marriages. Statistically speaking, getting married older than twenty-six gains you nothing, and could actually hurt your marriage chances.

But the idea that, if you are only 21, you should postpone marriage simply because of the statistics of successful first marriages, well, I’ll let you decide how well that would go over with the person you’re trying to convince you’re ready to commit to for life. “Of course I love you, honey, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to be there with you through all the ups and downs, the thick and thin. I would never think of divorcing you. Not a chance. But statistics do show that those who wait till their mid-twenties have less of a chance of getting divorced. So don’t you think we should wait?” Anyone who wants to try that, tell me how it goes.

As for posting the studies, last time I tried to quote something at length, wiseGEEK stripped it out, saying they wanted commenters’ opinions, not opinions from off site. So I’ll just recommend doing some research on the Census Bureau report; “With this Ring National Fatherhood Initiative”; the Popenoe Whitehead National Marriage Project; Norval Glenn; Ramesh Ponnuru; and Freedom to Marry Young. That’s a start.

Oh, and while I’m talking statistics, it’s well established that couples who live together before getting married have a significantly higher chance of getting divorced. Living together before marriage —”trying it on for size,” so to speak — is a bad idea. Living together isn’t like marriage. Marriage is like marriage. There is no try, only do.

By anon161665 — On Mar 21, 2011

@ubelzwilling: I find your postings to be very insightful and obvious testaments of your marital experience.

Your commitment can be heard loud and clear, which is a positive and encouraging message to any engaged couple. Finding others like yourself who know the true meaning of marriage and defend it so passionately, is rare.

Will you please teach an online marriage or pre -marriage seminar?

By anon150324 — On Feb 07, 2011

i think you should get married when you want to, when you feel it's right. there is no right age, and there shouldn't even be an argument.

By anon144023 — On Jan 18, 2011

I got married at age 24 after dating my husband for six years. I am now 27 and when i look back i think that i was way too young. i think 28 would be a good age if you are set on having a lot of kids. If kids aren't important to you, i would say more like 30's.

You need time to really know who you are, you're still doing a lot of changing in your 20's and you and your spouse may not be the same people as you were when you were dating at 22.

Not that you don't continue to change throughout your life, but from college age to career age, to settled in your career comes a lot of self growth and development. I think it depends too on your beliefs too. If you don't think it's a big deal to live together before your married, what's the rush? nothing much will change when you get married.

By anon143462 — On Jan 16, 2011

I do not think that there is a perfect age to get married. I am 22 and my fiance is 21. We have a nine month old daughter and are very happy together even though we are young.

I agree most people my age and younger are too busy partying and having fun to be in a committed marriage but when you have similar ideals and have been through experiences that help to mature you age stops being such a concern. For example, both of us are in the Army Reserves and are Reserve Police Officers, jobs that require maturity and responsibility.

The only reason that we aren't married is because I got pregnant before the wedding and did not want to be fat on my wedding day and we have now decided to wait until our daughter is old enough to be in the ceremony. Please do not point out that she was born out of wedlock or that it was a selfish decision. We have decided to have a military wedding and if I am fat I can't fit into my Class A's.

Personally, I know of several couples that we graduated HS with that got married immediately after graduation and were divorced a year later and some who have now made it to their fourth anniversaries, so age isn't the issue. It is the relationship itself and whether the couple is willing to work through their problems or if they simply want to take the easy way out and get a divorce (which takes $500 and 30 days in the state I live in).

As long as the couple is willing to work through their problems, truly love each other and have common values I think that the perfect marriage age is whenever they are ready.

By anon130921 — On Nov 30, 2010

The main thing everyone has to consider is not so much the age, but as it's been stated, the person. Some people grow to be very mature and ready for marriage at an earlier age, while some are still complete party animals who have not reached the level of maturity and responsibility it takes for marriage.

Some couples are married even before reaching the legal drinking age, but survive just fine. Another important thing is children. A couple can marry at a young age (20-25) and honestly survive just fine as long as they don't have unexpected kids or simply cannot handle the responsibility. A common mistake in marriage is to wed, have a grand party, and then have a kid immediately after.

By anon123925 — On Nov 03, 2010

I agree with post 9. I got married when I was 25 (still am 25) got pregnant right away and now I'm going through a divorce (all at age 25).

It is very very important to make sure you know the person you are marrying, although sometimes people can be so deceitful and tricky it's hard to know who they really are.

My parents got married in high school and had my older brother a year later. That doesn't mean that my brothers and me thought we needed to do the same thing. My older brother is 28 and not married yet, my younger brother is 21 and just got married.

There is no "right" age to get married, it's just when you find the "right" person.

By anon122697 — On Oct 29, 2010

@Number 35: Number 8 is giving her opinion. She believes women should marry and have a child before age 25 (I agree). She stated that getting married at a later age can be beneficial to some people. Everyone is different. That is all she is saying.

By anon120790 — On Oct 22, 2010

The poster of comment no.8 first states that marriage at a higher age may be benefit some people but then says she feels that all women should be married and have a child before 25. So which is it?

By anon100457 — On Jul 30, 2010

I am certain statistics may in many cases be right. If not, the variance is very low. Therefore, 26 plus or minus three is not wrong enough in age even though circumstances matter in each individual's case. All the time, one's destiny to some extent contributes much. That's the Lords will unto every man like it was for Adam.

By anon86293 — On May 24, 2010

If it was meant to work, it'll work. If it wasn't going to work, it won't. Age is a factor, sure, but mostly, it depends on the people.

By anon70690 — On Mar 15, 2010

whoever is stating like it is a statistical fact- people who get married at a later age, divorce at a higher rate - if this is true, please post the scientific study along with the statistical analysis ( and make sure it is from a creditable source) that justifies your statement.

Maybe you read something on the internet that said this, but we all know we should not believe everything we see on the internet.

I, for one, find it very hard to believe that particular statement, yet you use it to lend support to your statements. The only true fact that I believe we can all agree with is that people are marrying later in life.

In my own opinion, we all marry in hopes of one day finding happiness, why else would we do it. If marrying at a young age makes you happy, then do it, but if it does not work out, you have no one to blame. you followed your heart and did what you felt was right.

To me, maturity is something gained through experience. Some people in their 30s are not as mature than some 18 year olds.

But you cannot deny that with more years of life come more opportunities for experience. So if you randomly picked 10 people from society aged around 30 and 10 people from the same group aged around 18, I would bet my last dollar that the first group would be more mature.

I don't know what it takes for a successful marriage but I would hope that maturity is definitely in the mix. Therefore, with no disrespect to those who decided to marry young (kudos to you), I would have to agree that those who wait make better decisions in when to marry.

By anon69568 — On Mar 09, 2010

Marriage, its purpose and meaning are defined by the individual.

After reading a few posts from both the emotional people and the few thought out ones, I have come to the conclusion that marriage at a young age is for some and it isn't for others.

One thing we do need to keep in mind is that with the divorce rate at what it is now is also attributed to the fact there are 6.5 billion people in the world now compared to the 2 billion there were 60 years ago.

By anon60696 — On Jan 15, 2010

I find it ridiculous that there is even such an argument found here on this site. There should be no argument. You are ready for marriage when you know you are, and believe me, if it is right, you will know.

If you think you are too immature, don't get married. If you don't know who you are (which I don't know how you don't know this, but who am I to judge) then don't get married. Leave marriage for those of us who can handle the hurdles and idiots who are hurled at us on this journey.

Divorce rates are probably so high now because instead of influencing young couples to work through their issues, you simply say the issue was the age at which you were married, and use this as a get out of jail free card. It is a disgrace to see so many people soil the idea and sanctity of marriage. There is no room for you to shove your ideals down anybody's throat.

I married at 18 and my biggest problem was not with my marriage, but dealing with the people who assumed my life was a mistake because of this. I assure you, it was no mistake, we are still happy. Do I think marriage at 18 is for everyone? No. Obviously most people are not ideal for this. But there are those of us who can and will manage to have a blissful life together so don't assume because we are young that we are stupid. That in itself is ignorant.

By anon56829 — On Dec 17, 2009

What is marriage? Marriage is nothing but selfish satisfaction if not done for purposes of religion. Everything wrong in the world today is because people have made themselves or humans the ultimate authority, so to carry that out to the logical end, what is more important than nihilistic hedonism? A good atheist is a foolish atheist.

By ubelzwilling — On Dec 10, 2009

"People are choosing to get married older as a result of a new awareness. That awareness is a combination of observing that our parents' generation was not as peaceful or fulfilled as the illusion indicated. Instead we (age 25-45) are taking the time to develop self-awareness and self-love."

As I've pointed out already, while getting older often (though not nearly often enough) equates to greater self-awareness and maturation, that's not the key to a successful marriage. On the contrary, the more one is concerned about self-fulfillment and self-love, the less likely one is going to be able to sustain a successful marriage, since marriage is largely about selfless devotion to one's spouse.

"However, the assumption that more people getting divorced means worse relationships is, I believe, incorrect. Is that actually higher *percentages*, rather than simply figures rising with the population? And if it is percentages increasing, that could just be indicating that people are more likely to break up a marriage than stay together simply because society didn't accept divorces as freely as they do now."

Yes, it's a greater percentage, not merely larger numbers; we hear of the divorce "rate" for that reason. And you actually make my own point.

Yes, society does accept divorces much more freely now, but that's because divorce became more prevalent. The question is why it became more prevalent.

I argue it's for the very reason Corey refers to above: an increased, almost obsessive interest in self-fulfillment and empowerment. Since the 1970's society has been bombarded with the message that, in essence, it's all about us, that the individual is king. There are some positive aspects to that, but by emphasizing our own personal emotions and situations to such a degree, it does make it more difficult to adjust to the idea that someone else's emotions and situation are at least as important as our own. When it comes to marriage, that's about as fundamental as it gets.

When marriage becomes merely something to "try out," to see if it suits us, and if it doesn't fulfill us the way we thought it would, well, yeah: Chances are more are going to happen.

And that's been my whole point. Our society, far more than in the past, has forgotten what marriage actually represents, and how to be married. What makes a marriage work is selfless love for your spouse and a desire to experience life with that person and no one else, for the rest of your life.

Ultimately that's all it takes, regardless of age, education, or self-empowerment. The truest sense of fulfillment will come *from* experiencing that kind of marriage. And you can't experience it without staying married. Five-year-old wine won't taste nearly as good as fifty-year-old wine. Like wine, marriage has to age for you to experience its fullest pleasures.

By anon55926 — On Dec 10, 2009

Well, I believe that if two people really love each other and are willing to take the next big step then they're wise.

Many adults just live with each other and then become common-law married, which honestly isn't right if they aren't really married -- you know? Marriage is a perfect thing (at times), but people put pressure on newlyweds, saying things like "they're not right for you" or "you two are so different, you won't last" and it gets into the person's head and makes them think 'hey, maybe they're right.'

When someone falls in love, it's love. when someone loves another to no end, people have no right to doubt them. Well, that's my opinion anyway. :/

By coreyjenkins — On Oct 27, 2009

People are choosing to get married older as a result of a new awareness. That awareness is a combination of observing that our parents' generation was not as peaceful or fulfilled as the illusion indicated. Instead we (age 25-45) are taking the time to develop self-awareness and self-love. This is positive and over time will result in relationships based in truth and lovingness, regardless if we call them marriages or not.

By anon47230 — On Oct 02, 2009

"Couples are getting married much later -- average age of 27 instead of 20, compared to fifty years ago -- which one would think would argue better for marriage than worse. Older means more mature and responsible, right? But apparently not, because these older couples are getting divorced at far higher rates than their young predecessors." Quote from ubelzwilling. However, the assumption that more people getting divorced means worse relationships is, I believe, incorrect. Is that actually higher *percentages*, rather than simply figures rising with the population? And if it is percentages increasing, that could just be indicating that people are more likely to break up a marriage than stay together simply because society didn't accept divorces as freely as they do now.

By anon44396 — On Sep 07, 2009

After reading all of these comments, I have to say that ubel zwilling is the only one really making much sense. There's no magic age to be ready for marriage. Perfect example, marriages to med-students are much more successful if they're before or during the first couple years of med school. I'm planning on going to med school, so I looked into it for both my own sake as well as that of my fiance.

As for increased divorce rates, that has nothing to do with people getting married before they're ready or forcing it. That's simply the fact that to the world now, marriage is viewed as a sort of business deal that's kept intact as long as it's benefiting both parties and can be broken when things go sour. Marriage is something people have to fight for at times, and instead now people just give up and look for another one. It's a matter of convenience now instead of a lifelong contract.

Also, the idea of "knowing yourself" is absurd. There's no way to determine a specific age for that. Depending on the events that unfold in each individual's life, maturity is different. I've met teenagers with a better grip on reality then people in their 30's.

One thing I laugh at is the ridiculous statement that people today are more well rounded. The most recent generations are the most naive of any. Most of my peers leave me stunned. Our generation has become so ignorant. I've lived across the U.S. and it's not even a regional dilemma, it seems to be a universal issue.

Lastly, I was thinking about the statement that "the times have changed." The times may change. However, it's up to the individual whether or not to follow the course or make their own decisions.

By anon42035 — On Aug 18, 2009

If the two individuals are capable of supporting themselves and find themselves in love and thinking about themselves in terms of a couple 5, 10, 50 years from now then why does age matter? My husband was 24 and I was 22 and even though we were young we are the happiest couple I've ever run across.

By anon35950 — On Jul 08, 2009

I've read all the opinions and comments here and I have to say I agree 100% with ubelzwilling. Knowing yourself is not a valid indicator of whether or not you're capable of a successful marriage. In a successful marriage "knowing yourself" is not enough. Age does not determine if you are ready for marriage. Growing together and certainty of knowing that this is the "one" that you want to spend the rest of your life with, through good and bad times, no matter how hard life becomes, you would have the love and strength to face the hardship together plays a huge part. I totally agree with ubelzwilling. everything you've said is logical and I truly believe that.

By ubelzwilling — On Apr 28, 2009

Mark Regnerus is an associate professor of sociology at the University of Texas at Austin and is the author of "Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers."

By anon30170 — On Apr 14, 2009

Is it more normal for a man to be ten years older than the woman he marries or for the woman to be ten years older than the man?

By ubelzwilling — On Apr 07, 2009

My, what big hyperbole you have, Grandma.

Julia, my reading comprehension is fine. I'm beginning to question yours, though, since you've missed the point entirely now twice. I never said those anonymous posters were attacking the institution of marriage. Not once. Scroll down and see for yourself. What I did say is that their idea that anyone under 25 can't be self-aware or mature enough to get married is ridiculous, and is itself an example of one of the reasons so many marriages end in divorce today. There is a difference, whether you choose to accept that or not.

Their argument, and apparently yours since you're defending them, depends on two things:

1) that "knowing yourself" is a prerequisite to a long marriage; and

2) that you can't "know yourself" well enough before age 25-ish.

Well, we all know #1 is wrong on its face, because we all know there are countless examples of people getting married young, even very young, and staying married. Clearly they didn't know themselves as well at 18 or 20 as they did at 25, did they? And yet they still managed to stay married. How can this be?

Because people spend their whole lives getting to "know themselves." It's not as if there's some magic age where everything becomes clear to us. Life is always teaching us lessons. The point of being married is to learn those lessons *together,* because you want to, with someone that you love enough--and loves you enough--to want to be with while learning those lessons. It's not so much about "knowing yourself" as knowing you want to be with that other person, regardless of what life brings you. This is why I said, and still very much say, that anyone who argues that you can't get married before you "know yourself" simply doesn't understand what marriage is supposed to be.

As to #2--that you can't "know yourself" before age 25--of course you're not going to know as much about yourself at age 18 as you will at 25--or at 35, 55, or 75. Again, no one knows himself as well as he will ten years, five years, even just one year later, which is why if you had to know *everything* about yourself to have a successful marriage, no one ever would. But people do, because we are always learning, before marriage and during it. In fact you *won't* know everything about yourself *until* you get married, and *until* you face the inevitable struggles in it. Part of getting married is *knowing* that you don't know all there is to know about yourself, but that you're going to learn.

The only thing you really have to know about yourself to have a successful marriage is that you want to spend the rest of your life with your intended. If you can't imagine your life without her, then you know that there's no problem that you won't want to solve together, and no journey that you don't want to take with her. You think your grandparents were "settled in life" when they got married as teenagers? I bet I know what they'd say. My parents certainly weren't "settled in life" when they got married at 20. The idea is that you want *to be together* through it all, whether you're "settled" or not, to experience the "settling," the figuring-it-out-of-it-all, with your spouse. The goal is the couple, the other--not the self. And knowing that isn't dependent on any particular age. You can know it at 18, and not know it at 80.

It's not about the age, and it's not about "the times." It's about the lessons you're taught as you grow up, and what examples you've had in your life. In that sense, yes, the times can make it harder to learn those lessons -- our current society is addicted to the self, and our divorce rates show it -- but there are still people getting married young and making it. They do because despite all the negative pressures, they were taught -- and shown -- how to be responsible, mature, loving people, whatever the culture may be, and the lessons stuck. Those are lessons you can absolutely learn by 17. Our parents' and grandparents' generation showed that. It used to be expected. It's now the lack of that expectation that has our youth staying stunted in terms of maturity until later in life and choosing to get married for the wrong reasons and for the wrong impressions.

So once again, the institution of marriage is just fine, and it's not excessive youth, or changed times, that's got the divorce rate up. It's the low expectations of, and poor lessons being taught our youth by their supposed role models. "The times" are us. What we choose to value, and thus teach our children, is what makes "the times."

Simple answer: I know I won't get divorced because I know my wife feels the same way about us, and about marriage, as I do. (I find it curious you assumed I was a woman.)

As for knowing more about life, I don't know that I do. What I do know is what I can see with my own eyes, and know others can see if they'll bother to look. Trouble is, many won't, and yes, that's definitely unpleasant, which might explain your finding my attitude unpleasant. It's an unpleasant topic that such a discussion prompts, or at least should. As for my supposed arrogance, I question your definition of it; too often these days it's simply something to call someone who dares to make a convicted judgment about something. "Must...not...judge." But if that's what being forthright about the death of the grown-up in our society means, I'll bear that burden.

By anon29646 — On Apr 06, 2009

I mostly agree with ubelzwilling. I started dating my fiance at 19 when I was a freshman in college. I am 22 now, and we are getting married in 42 days.

Honestly, most people in my generation are simply lazy, self absorbed, and just want satisfaction. It is scary to me to think how quickly the majority of people seem to be losing their values. I agree that there is no 'correct time' to get married, but I also think it is crazy to say someone is not mature enough. Judging by the comments of some of the people on this blog, I would have to say they are the immature ones.

By anon27228 — On Feb 25, 2009


Wow! You are sadly mistaken in everything that you are saying. I believe that you were so quick to attack the two who posted before you that you did not realize that they too are defending the institution of marriage. They were 100% right. And for your information, I am very close to my elders and I *do* consult them for advice in various aspects in life. I have to agree with you on one thing, and that's that marriage has been devalued by people "mucking it up."

As an example, my grandmother got married at 17 years of age and stayed married until my grandfather passed away. Can one successfully get married at age 17 today? No! In these days, you are still a child at 17. The one who posted before you stated that times have changed, and in this way he/she is right. In the old times, one must only have a high school diploma, and now life demands more, thus people are taking longer to get settled in life.

How do you know that you will never get divorced?? Your husband may leave *you*.

By ubelzwilling — On Feb 24, 2009

To the anons,

I'm just turned forty years old, a founding member of Generation X, and the idea that life demands more than it used to is laughable fantasy. It suggests you have little to no idea of what your parents' -- or grandparents'; I don't know how old you are -- generation actually experienced. If anyone's disconnected here, it's you and your conception of the past. The last couple of generations, especially the latest one, are the most coddled generations in human history. Never before have generations of humans been able to enjoy so much with so little effort, and expend so much time thinking about what they should get out of life.

The result of that is a whole class of couples whose focus in marriage is what it can do for him and her, as individuals, not as a couple. They're not used to compromise and not used to being challenged. The advantage they have over past generations is that they don't have to devote nearly as much of their lives to physical hardship and the stresses of mere survival. The downside of that is the lack of perspective they have in terms of what hardship actually is, and the camaraderie such hardships can form in a couple.

You say current generations are better educated. That's largely true in terms of social tolerance, and perhaps slightly true academically (though that's eminently debatable), but it's most certainly not true in terms of having well-rounded perspective on life in general. Our current society is painfully naive when it comes to personal and social responsibility, and marriage statistics illustrate just how much. Couples are getting married much later -- average age of 27 instead of 20, compared to fifty years ago -- which one would think would argue better for marriage than worse. Older means more mature and responsible, right? But apparently not, because these older couples are getting divorced at far higher rates than their young predecessors.

So it's not about the age, or the time period, it's about the mindset. Marriage hasn't gotten any harder. It's the people who are getting married these days who are making it harder, because they just don't get it. People who get married too young aren't more likely to divorce because life demands more than it used to, but because *they* do.

And in that sense, you're right: I am disconnected from current society, because I don't. I married for life, come what may.

By anon27137 — On Feb 24, 2009


I feel as though you are very disconnected with the current society and I am sorry to hear that. In this generation, people are more well-rounded and do not take the same kinds of abuse from spouses as previous generations. We are also better educated. And you say that times haven't changed, but people's views have... so yes, people have changed along with the times. Please think about what you are saying. People who get married too young are more likely to divorce because life demands more than it used to.

By anon27134 — On Feb 24, 2009

ubelzwilling, who are you?? You are sadly mistaken and those two other posts are right and you are wrong. Most people do not know who they are at that age. Are you married or divorced? How old are you?

By anon27130 — On Feb 24, 2009


Please do not attack someone's maturity level because of your opinions; that is immature. I still believe in marriage, but *most* people are screwing it up just because they believe that people must get married, so they get married for the wrong reasons then get divorced. Please, next time think before you jump down someone's throat. Besides times have changed because people have changed. Now it takes much longer for people to grow up. Thank you and try to be smart!

By ubelzwilling — On Feb 17, 2009

These last two posts are perfect exemplars of the child-like mentality extending into adulthood. The idea that someone can't "know himself" at age 25 is ridiculous, and up to only the most recent generations would have been scoffed at. Coming to maturity by 18-21 was a foregone conclusion; our social rituals and institutions expected it and fostered it. And it largely happened, at least where marriage was concerned, as evidenced by the differences in divorce rates. "Times" haven't changes; only people's attitudes have. The only thing that's keeping people from getting married young and staying together just as long as their parents' generations did is a culturally accepted and *encouraged* self-absorption, combined with a superficial and immature view of marriage itself. The institution of marriage is just fine. It's the people who're choosing to do it that are more frequently mucking it up.

By anon26271 — On Feb 10, 2009

I agree with the last poster. Marriage is a *huge* deal and so many people take it lightly, hence the growing rate of divorce. Besides, you do not know who you are at 21, 22, 23 years of age.

I know from personal experience; I was with my ex for several years, and thank God, didn't marry him-- or else I would now be 22 and divorced. My parents were 21 and 25 when they got married as well and they are still very happily married. However, times have changed and things don't work that way anymore.

I think its ludicrous that someone would say that you need to be married at 25! You need to know who you are first.

By anon25648 — On Feb 01, 2009

Getting married and having a child is a huge deal. I hardly think it is something that people should do by the age of 25. The first poster makes the assumption that she's just guaranteed to never have to go through a divorce. The younger people are when they get married, the more likely they are to go through a divorce. This phenomena shapes the social demographic in such a way as to be very negative for the society in general. Not everyone meets the person that they're supposed to spend the rest of their life with between the ages of 22-25, so don't make snap judgments and broad based claims about what you think people should do just based on you and your family's history early marriage track record.

By anon25266 — On Jan 26, 2009

This article seems to stress that a higher average age at first marriage is an exclusively positive thing. I'm sure this is true for some people, but it is certainly not true for all people.

Everyone in my family (my parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, etc) has gone to college, and most of my family has at least a master's degree. The oldest anyone has gotten married in my family is 24. My sister is getting married this summer at 23 and I will be getting married next summer at 22. My parents were married at 22, as well. I'm hoping to go to graduate school for a PhD, and my fiance will graduate with multiple bachelor's degrees from the University of Notre Dame.

I suppose my point is simply that education does not necessarily equal a higher marriage age, and that a higher marriage age is not necessarily a good thing. I believe in starting your married life early, growing up together, and having children before you are 37, 38, 39... like so many women today do. I strongly believe that all women ought to marry and have a child before the age of 25.

By anon24391 — On Jan 12, 2009

I wonder what the statistics would be for gay marriage - that is if it were legal in all states. I feel like the age would be a LOT higher, but that's only my intuition.

By LindsayD — On Nov 10, 2008

I am skeptical that the only cause for the trends noted in this article is "increased industrialization." Are the effects of increased educational and employment opportunities not worth mentioning?

By dobrinj — On Nov 10, 2008

the most recent data from the u.s. census bureau, indicates an average age of 27.5 for men and 25.6 for women for their first marriage. this is data for the year 2007.

By anon6135 — On Dec 17, 2007

Actually, in Sweden, the average age for men to marry is 32, while the average age for women is 30.

By olittlewood — On Dec 09, 2007

we are so lucky to live in countries where we are not forced into marriage at a young age. we can only pray that other counties and cultures will follow suit and allow women to choose for themselves when the right time is for marriage. i don't think getting married young is bad, but when it interferes with making good life choices, i.e., college, etc., then you need to consider it carefully. my heart just aches for those women in other countries who are subjugated by men, considered only as property.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a CulturalWorld.org contributor, Tricia...
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