July 31, 2014

When Is The Best Age to Get Married?

This mail bag question has to do with marriage and figuring out the answer to the oft-posed question, “When is the best age to get married?” …

Mail Bag Questions and Comments for Joshua KennonDear Mr. Kennon,

Your writing has helped me so much since I first found it.  My question isn’t exactly related to money or investing but I want to hear your take.  In your opinion, when is the best age to get married? 

Pipp29

Not everyone wants to get married.  That’s perfectly okay and fine.  For those who do desire marriage, generally speaking, the best age to get married is when you’ve found someone with whom you want to spend the rest of your life, hand-in-hand, til-death-do-you-part, in triumph and tragedy.  It doesn’t matter if you are 18 or 58.  

There seems to be an interesting intellectual failure among a decent portion of the younger population who is worried about getting married too young.  They think they will go off to college, maybe get a master’s degree or a doctorate, establish themselves in their career, and then, settle down when they are ready.  The glaring assumption that they seem to ignore?  It is presumed that when they are ready to get married, someone will magically materialized from the ether, waiting to walk down the aisle.  That is foolish.  Though there may be a few exceptions, life doesn’t work that way.  When you find the person with whom you want to grow old, you marry them and adjust the rest of your life around it.  Finding that person, and doing it at the “perfect” time, is a near statistical impossibility.  

This delay-marriage-until-I-am-perfect approach also deprives a couple from going through the triumphs and struggles of early adulthood together, which can be the most rewarding and bonding experiences life has to offer.  That isn’t to say you should jump into marriage young simply because you want to be married.  Some people have no idea who they are until much later in life.  

I was fortunate enough not to have to worry about that; I met my spouse at 15 years old, and we’ve been together since we were 18 years old.  There is a lot to be said for it.  There were no pre-nuptials or negotiations because we built everything together.  There is a history, an appreciation, and a connection that happens because our story is impossible to tell without the other.  It’s also much easier to have courage, to take a risk and go after your dreams, when you know in the deepest heart of your hearts that even if you fail miserably, as long as you can have them at your side, it is okay.  

The Best Age to Get Married Might Be Different for Men Than It Is For Women

Beyond that, the answer differs for the two genders; due to biological limitations imposed by natural selection, the best age to get married for men is not the same as the best age to get married for women.  Though it doesn’t seem fair, the challenges and pitfalls that come from delayed marriage are especially pronounced for women.  

  • The opportunity cost of marriage is different for men than it is for women because men can reproduce at any age, whereas a woman’s fertility to begins to decline at 30, high-risk pregnancy terrain begins at 35, and there comes a point where conception is no longer possible.  We discussed this in our conversation about extended adolescence.  
  • Generally speaking, a 35 year old woman has far fewer options when it comes to love and marriage than an equal-in-all-other-respects 35 year old man.  This is closely related to the first point, but also finds root in the biology studies that show men are driven toward younger, fertile women with specific characteristics on a primal, genetic level, and, on the flip side, younger, attractive women are drawn to richer, powerful, older men.  This makes perfect sense when you realize those behaviors would have led to greater survival chances and future reproduction when our ancestors lived in tight-knit tribal communities where food and resources were scarce.  Over thousands of years, it was bred into the human bloodlines because it was an advantageous adaptation.  

If you are in the minority of people who doesn’t desire children, much of that opportunity cost disappears, reformulating the equation.  In a sense, for you, there might not be a best age to get married.  Your trade-off criteria is much different than the typical person because you have de facto nulled the danger of not settling down and reproducing by the time of fertility decline.  In this case, we go back to my primary answer:  Generally speaking, the best age to get married is when you’ve found someone with whom you want to spend the rest of your life, hand-in-hand, til-death-do-you-part, in triumph and tragedy.  

  • Bjkarana

    My grandfather advised my brothers and I that the best age to get married was 47.   By then you’re wise enough to know enough about life to handle such a commitment.  Of course, just like investing, sometimes knowing too much can be a hindrance instead of a benefit and a bit youthful ignorance can be a good thing.

  • Curious George

    I’m still curious.  Does my vaporized question mean “yes”?

    • Joshua Kennon

      It looks like your question was vaporized because it tripped the commenting system that you’ve left messages under 5 or 6 different names lately all with different email addresses (e.g., Anon, Guesty, Ok, etc.) I’m going through the que now responding and filtering and I see that it wasn’t spam. (Normally, that type of behavior would be a spam bot or someone trolling to increase their blog hits or something).

      I would have restored it and answered it but it deals with my personal life so I started to write a response through the contact form since, as a general rule, I don’t put up a lot of info about the members of my household, family, friends, kids, nieces, etc., but you entered a fake email address along with each of your comments so there is no way to get it to you.

      Send the question through the contact form with your real name and a real email address.

  • Crabhooves

    This is really terrific advice Joshua – probably the best relationship advice I’ve ever seen. I was hoping you would write an article or even a reply about how you know the person you’re with is the right one to marry. I don’t believe in the concept of ‘the one’ I think there are many, many people a single person could be happy with – but I do believe its possible to be stuck in a mediocre or just ‘good enough’ relationship and miss out on one of the potential loves of your life (note that I’m talking about compatability here, not things like fights, arguments or the need to compromise – which every couple has). Do you think people instinctively know when they’re with that person, if not do you have any advice for determining it? Thanks for any help you can give me – I’m sure it will be invaluable.