Is There a Perfect Age to Get Married?
Studies about relationships – especially about what makes them last and thrive (or not) – are fascinating. They often provide insight into how couples are changing, how they’re staying the same and what sets the successful ones apart from the rest.
But at the same time, we should take research with a grain of salt when we apply it to our own lives. One month there’s a study on how couples are more likely to stay together if they eat more leafy greens – then the next, there’s a contradictory study arguing that couples will never divorce if they eat a steady diet of crispy bacon. (We’re all secretly hoping the latter study is for real.)
Does Age Matter?
One recent study that has had the Internet all atwitter is one from Nicholas H. Wolfinger, a University of Utah psychologist, for the Institute for Family Studies. Wolfinger analyzed data from the National Survey of Family Growth to see how the age at which couples get married influences whether they stay together or not.
So what age is the sweet spot for exchanging matching wedding bands… and celebrating your silver anniversary down the road?
- Couples who married in their late 20s or early 30s have a decreased risk of divorce
- Couples who get married young have a higher risk for divorce; for example, someone who marries at 25 is over 50% less likely to get divorced than someone who marries at 20
- Couples who wait till later in life also have a higher risk of divorce; those who marry in their mid-30s or later are more likely to divorce than those who marry in their late 20s
The last finding is a surprising one that researchers don’t quite know what to make of yet. Isn’t it better to wait until you know yourself better, as well as what you want in a marriage? But obviously, this study doesn’t mean that if you get married before 25 or after 32, your fate is sealed.
A Washington Post article said it well:
If you wait until your 40s to get married, your relationship is by no means doomed. And waiting until later in life is still a much wiser option that marrying early. Looking at the raw divorce rates, for instance, Wolfinger found that people who married at age 35 or greater had a 19 percent risk of divorce, compared to a 20 percent risk for those aged 20 to 24, and a 32 percent risk for those who married before they were 20.
Another key point of context to note is that overall divorce rates are still on a 30-year decline from their peak in the early 1980s.
So while these studies are always fascinating and good dinnertime conversation starters, there are far more compelling factors when it comes to loving, lasting marriages. There are too many to list here, but just for starters, here are a few predictors of a successful marriage that you do have control over.
What’s More Important Than Age
You’re on the same page.
Those big, stay-up-till-2-am-talking subjects? Oh yes, you’ve covered them. You know how you both feel about living in the city vs. moving to the ‘burbs. You have a good gauge on how you both deal with stress and what you consider “clean.” You see eye to eye on all the dealbreakers – kids, careers, values, families, money. And you can handle the quirks and flaws about each other that probably aren’t going to change. You know a lot about one another, and your love is stronger for it.
Harpers Bazaar added to the conversation, stating “Couples who have expensive weddings are more likely to get divorced. Pricey engagement rings also lower the chances of long-term happiness,…”. The study under analysis samples a group of men and found that those who purchased and engagement ring between $2,000 and $4,000 was 1.3 times more likely to get divorced, while those who spent between $500 and $2,000 were more likely to have long-lasting marriages. Furthermore, weddings valued over $20,000 increase the chances of divorce by 1.6 compared to a wedding costing less than $1,000. In tandem, it’s noted that money spent on a honeymoon is far better for the longevity of a relationship, as it is relaxing and decompressing couple retreat after the stress endured leading up to a wedding. This study reinforces the need for a couple to be on the same page with their financial goals.
The modern couple is discussing their goals for the future, and making decisions together. As a result, they are shopping for their rings together, agreeing on a budget, and are searching for the greatest value without breaking the bank.
But you also know you’ll both change over time.
You’re not the exact same person at age 20 or at 40 or at 60 (and thank goodness for that!). You’ll grow and evolve over time, and so will your spouse. The trick is recognizing this and finding a way to grow together and not apart. If you’ve already been through some ups and downs and periods of uncertainty or transition, and you’ve figured out how to ride it out together, you’re already on track.
You’re in it for better, for worse.
You two really take those vows seriously. They’re not just pretty words you say when you’re wearing your Sunday best and slipping on matching wedding bands. For better, for worse. In sickness, in health. As long as you both live. It’s a huge commitment, but you both want to make it, and you can’t wait to build the rest of your lives together.
Want to learn more about the modern couple, check out our 2017 Annual Modern Couples Survey!