Teen marriage? What’s the rush?

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Recently my boyfriend and I were invited to his cousin’s wedding. While we were trying to figure out if we would be able to go or not, he casually mentioned that it might not be as fun because there would be a bunch of teenagers there. When I asked him why, thinking maybe he has a bunch of cousins I’ve never heard of, he responded that the bride was eighteen.

For me, the Earth stopped rotating for 3.6 seconds while I digested that information. Eighteen! When I was 18 I had never been drunk,  had a total of ONE boyfriend; was drowning under a mass of college papers and working nearly full-time so I could pay for car insurance. And I still had a curfew.

In December I turned 30; I am living with the love of my life, but still get the willies thinking about tying the knot. I can’t even imagine attempting to make that decision at 18. It takes at least 25 years to figure out how not to be an idiot all of the time. And then even after that it’s still not a guarantee that you are making all the right life decisions — you are just better equipped to handle it when you make the wrong one.

With the divorce rates of young couples so high these days, it’s hard to imagine even wanting to get married, especially if you are a teenager. Not that I am against marriage — I’m definitely not — but to share your life with someone before you even fully know yourself is a huge undertaking, and not one at which you are likely to be successful. Not that I am saying all young marriages end in divorce, or that all young people are stupid, or have no clue who they are. But I do think a teenager that knows exactly what they want by the age of 18 is a rare occurrence.

For example, my youngest sister turned 22 on October 15th, and I’m sure she would agree with me that she is definitely not ready for marriage, even though she has been seriously dating the same guy for the past year. In fact, if her boyfriend proposed to her, Kaitlin’s head would either explode or at the very least turn around in a slow circle like the girl in The Exorcist. Then there would be a Kaitlin-sized hole in the wall behind her and a Kaitlin-shaped cloud of smoke where she was standing one second before that.

But I do also have a point to make for young marriage as well. Two of my best college friends got married when we were around 22 and 23. If anyone is the exception to the rule, it’s this couple. They have been together since 8th grade, never dated anyone else (never wanted anyone else, there is a difference), and it just seemed natural that they marry as soon as we all graduated from college. They have a very happy marriage today as well as a beautiful 3-year-old.

I say, what’s the rush? Unless you have a terminal illness, you are planning on being around for a while. There is time to do all the things you want before tying yourself legally and emotionally to another human being. Not to mention, more and more couples are choosing to live together and have children without getting married at all.

According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau reports, 51 percent of Americans are currently married, compared to 72 percent back in 1960. The divorce rate also declines as you age — it’s 50 percent for couples who marry under the age of 20, but 34 percent for those in the 20 to 23-year-old category.

Better safe than sorry. Let him put a ring on it, but don’t sign on that dotted line until you are absolutely ready. Don’t let anyone pressure or force you into it — so what if you aren’t married? It doesn’t mean you never will be, or are less of a person if you never get married. I’m not married and I am happier than I have ever been. Wait until you get the relationship you are sure you want for life and if that happens to be when you are 36, more power to you.

(This blog was first published on the Baltimore Post-Examiner)