Last week, a friend of mine shared this article with me and wanted to know my perspective on it. In a nutshell, it’s an article written by a Catholic, basically arguing that Catholics should encourage their children to get married young.
From the article:
Many Catholics, like society at large, encourage their children to postpone marriage. Go to college. Get a job. Get financially stable. Date around. Find out who you are first, then consider marriage. Problem is, by the time you do all these things to find out who YOU are, the one things you can count is who you are is ‘not married.’ This is why people now do not get married until they are in their late twenties, if at all. By then, society has messed them up so much by a decade of self-centeredness that they will probably make lousy spouses.
While I don’t necessarily disagree with everything in the article, I think this is quite a jump to make. Especially since I know there are many people who would LOVE to be married by 23, but that’s simply not God’s plan for them. As unfair as it is to condemn young marriages across the board as being irresponsible or foolish, it’s just as bad to conclude that those people who get married in their 30s are selfish or will make “lousy spouses”. Sheesh.
That being said, I do come from a family of people who happened to get married “young”. My parents were married at 19, and all four of my siblings were married by their 25th birthday. It wasn’t expected; it just worked out that way. My dad wrote a guest post a while back about what a father ought to expect from a man wishing to marry his daughter (spoiler: there’s no age requirement—but men without concrete plans to support their families need not apply).
Every relationship is different. While it would be wonderful if every couple could get married the second they knew they wanted to, often that’s not practical—nor is it prudent. It’s ok to postpone marriage because you need to finish college first; not everyone can juggle both at the same time, and it certainly does not mean you’re selfish if you know yourself well enough to know that you can’t.
I do, however, feel compelled to say something here about chastity outside of marriage. It’s difficult. And quite frankly, dating the same person for ten years without getting married doesn’t make it any easier. There may come a certain point when prudence calls for either getting married or breaking up, so as not to continue putting you and your significant other in unnecessary temptation. Of course, if you love each other, breaking up may not seem like an option, and perhaps this is a reason why you shouldn’t be dating anyone if you know you’re nowhere close to being ready to get married in the first place.
Bottom line: this is a vocation we are talking about here! It’s not something that can be figured out by a divine mathematical equation (i.e. If x = your age and y = the age of your significant other, multiply the difference by the square root of the number of years you have been dating and voila! Your wedding date). If only it were that simple.
Rather than encourage people to get married young as a means of avoiding selfishness, why not encourage and pray for them to practice charity no matter what age they are or state of life they find themselves in?
As St. Therese of Lisieux put it, “My vocation is love.”