I’m the Youngest Married Person I Know and, Yeah, It’s Kind of Weird
There’s a theory about getting married that goes something like this: Wait, but not too long. The reasoning is pretty obvious: Very early marriages don’t last, and neither do unions formed way later in life. A study in 2015 by sociologist Nicholas Wolfinger found that “prior to age 32 or so, each additional year of age at marriage reduces the odds of divorce by 11 percent. However, after that the odds of divorce increase by 5 percent per year.”
So according to science, the ideal age to get married is between 28 and 32. Slate calls it the “Goldilocks Theory of Marriage.” But trends have never really appealed to me—I got married at the tender age of 24.
It was the same year I started a new job in a new field, and less than two years after I’d moved to New York City; we met in college and it was my first long-term relationship. No surprises here: I’m the youngest married person I know—at work, among friends and certainly in a city where most people are well into adulthood before tying the knot. Some of my college friends are slowly joining the club, but most of my friends are either dating or single. Is it weird? Yes. Do I love it? Also yes.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that it feels awkward to use the word “husband” in casual conversation. Among peers, I worry that I sound boastful; to anyone older than me, I’m avoiding the possibility of judgment or the inevitable eyebrow-raise. (Because, of course, your 20s are reserved for getting graduate degrees, pursuing careers, stumbling through Tinder dates and “figuring yourself out.”)
And it’s the eyebrow-raisers who have the data to prove their point. The New York Times says women who have children between 25 and 34 (realistically, that demographic will probably include me someday) never close the wage gap with their husband. Psychologists say that people who marry later in life have more stable marriages; the same people are more financially stable and have a greater sense of self, goals and the future. According to a demographic report from Pew in 2010, only 21 percent of millennials (ages 18 through 29) were married and the median age for marriage was the highest in generations (almost 27 for women and 29 for men).
The difficulty of closing that pay gap might be true, and I probably am at a disadvantage when it comes to establishing my career and a family at the same time. Older people probably are more financially secure, might already own a house and have more savings. But even given these concrete facts, I don’t regret anything about my trajectory.
I didn’t wait to get married until I was “grown up.” I didn't need to “arrive” to be ready for it. A stacked résumé and rock-solid bank account aren’t requirements for marriage. Maturity, commitment and unconditional support are. We didn’t get married young because of outdated social expectation or because we could file our taxes jointly. It was more like…what’s the point in waiting for the inevitable? When you’ve been dating for three years with no plans of stopping, why not get on with your life and do the damn thing?
And isn’t there value in weathering the storms of early adulthood with your one-and-only? It beats going it alone, if you ask me. Job searches, job losses, career changes, financial woes and family deaths all seem a little more palatable when coupled with the companionship and stability of my marriage.
That doesn’t mean I need my husband in order to figure out my career, build up my 401k, pay rent, save for a house or what have you. (Women have done and will continue to do that on their own, thank you very much.) I’m just saying, it’s nice to have a friend come along, especially when he supports my career choices and financial decisions independently of his own. Being married and establishing yourself aren’t mutually exclusive.
There are the social perks, too. For a self-described introvert who’s exhausted by the mere mention of after-work drinks, it’s a relief to be able to pass on invitations because I “already have plans with my husband.” (No one needs to know those plans are watching reruns from the couch.) And while I sympathize with my friends who complain about the difficulties and banalities of dating in their 20s, I’m not jealous.
You might argue that it's crazy to marry your first serious boyfriend, not see who else is out there, not to kiss more frogs. I hear you. But considering the boys (and yeah, they were boys) that preceded him, I didn't really want to kiss any more frogs. My husband and I knew early on in our relationship that we weren't dating for fun and games.
Obviously, none of this is to say that there’s a right or wrong way to go about the marriage thing. I won’t raise my eyebrows at the age you got married if you won’t for me.
Just don’t ask me when I’m having kids.