I think many, if not most people, have had friends and acquaintances who have experienced divorce express the lament that they married too young. The feeling often is that the couple married when they were still relatively immature and either picked the wrong person to marry, or weren’t ready for the rigors of marriage, and so placed themselves where they couldn’t succeed. I certainly believe that can be the case for some people, marriage in our culture is difficult enough on its own without the added burden of immaturity either in decision of selection of a spouse or in our conduct within the union. But my close friend Brian intrigued me greatly recently when he offered the suggestion that maybe some people, and especially Christians, are marrying too late in life now, not too young.
This is an interesting thought, and I’m not sure I’ve heard it stated this way recently…if ever. The current conventional wisdom, and action, is that marriage takes a certain amount of emotional, and for Christians spiritual, maturity in order to be able to successfully work out the problems that are part of the marriage union. Brian however believes that while maturity might be helpful, more is lost when a couple marries later in life. His belief, and he married relatively young, is that there is tremendous benefit for a couple to grow together, both emotionally and spiritually, and it actually helps the couple deal with the inevitable problems that arise later in life. I think there is some merit to these thoughts. Everyone who marries young has maturity issues, that’s because maturity comes from growth, and the younger a person is the less experience they have. Age and experience however is not a guarantee of growth and maturity and that I think is the greater issue. I think almost everyone knows people who haven’t really matured emotionally or spiritually as they’ve aged. In thinking about this, while our conversation about this didn’t reach this level, I think Brian and I would agree that one of the benefits of marriage is that people grow to fit each other which extends and complements each other’s natural gifts. I found that younger people are more flexible than older people and that people in their early twenties perhaps the most flexible of all which means that adults in marriage with flexibility learn and adapt to their spouses more readily, if they are willing to do so. It’s like leather gloves which stretch and fit better early on and become almost like a second skin, as opposed to older gloves that have hardened with age and never become as comfortable.
There is one major problem it seems to with this idea. Because younger people have less maturity, they are less willing to adapt themselves to someone else because of the lack of maturity. However I believe the issue isn’t so much maturity as it is lack of commitment and lack of compatible value systems…in other words they aren’t on the same page. I’m not sure that is something in which emotional maturity will help. That perhaps is a subject for another post.
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My observation is that young people are more flexible and therefore more willing to “work things out” than people who have, with age, become more rigid or set in their ways. I got married at 21. I’m glad I did.