Doomed to fail. Set for heartbreak. Lives ready to ruin. These are some of the things you might hear about marrying young, a trend that – like the tide – comes and goes. In recent years, some studies have found that women are doing two things: Marrying sooner rather than later, or simply not marrying at all. And these two endgames, these results, are subjects of scrutiny on both ends.
This all comes with the evolution of a woman’s mindset. Unlike forty, fifty, or even sixty years ago, women are now edging out men for positions of power. While the game is still somewhat rigged by the long history of the feminist’s super-villain called “the patriarchy” (see pa·tri·ar·chy, noun, “…control by men of a disproportionately large share of power”), more and more women are beginning to shrug off the previous ideals set forth for women by men. These ideals of fragility and fertility – that women cannot do things for themselves or without the help of men, and that they are nothing more than devices for procreation – are being overthrown by this new wave of radical young women.
And that’s what we need.
Radical is by no means an insult, because to imply that someone is radical implies that they go straight to the root of the problem as opposed to dancing around it. They see the problems, and they make the necessary actions to change them. The problem here, in the United States especially, is the male-controlled dominion of power. Too rarely do we see progressive women make the necessary movements to make real, tangible changes for a singular purpose: Equality.
But retreating from that branch of a tangent, we see now that women are swiftly changing their mindsets on marriage. For a long time (still today, even), marriage is seen as a ball-and-chain. The man works, and the woman cleans the house. The man works, and the woman births the children. It’s a longstanding tradition, and it’s one that – like many patriarchal ideals – is now being tossed on its ass.
Just not everywhere, and certainly not for everyone.
There are arguments on both sides; some making the case for just not getting married ever, others making the case for getting married younger. Arguments for the pro-young-marriage stance generally base their statements on having one partner for life and making a life with them. They are swiftly countered by others who comment that getting married young leaves couples with little time to really get to know one another – which would be a fair argument if it weren’t for the number of relationships that start in high school and last throughout college. Young marriage doesn’t always equate to young relationships, and a couple may well have started dating long before their young marriage.
It’s reported that studies are showing women, now more than ever, are choosing career over marriage. Now more than ever, women are choosing to not settle down at a young age – or any age, really – and essentially kill off their chances at doing something more with life. There seems to be this great divide in the matter, with some women arguing that marriage is not only necessary but required to live a happy life, and others arguing that marriage is basically a prison sentence.
Women arguing for the anti-marriage stance frequently use high divorce rates as a platform. And, indeed, divorce rates for couples that marry young are higher than the national average. Stephanie Coontz, the Director of Research and Public Education at the Council on Contemporary Families, said in an interview with Teen Vogue:
“If you’re a woman, until you reach 24 or 25, your risk of divorce is much, much higher than if you wait to get marriage until 24 or older, […] In fact, every year that you delay marriage, right up into your early 30’s, decreases your risk of divorce. There are always exceptions to averages, but it’s so important that women and men complete their college education and know each other for a long time, given the dynamics of today’s marriage.”
While Coontz doesn’t directly argue for the nullification or destruction of marriage as a whole, or as a concept, she does argue for waiting until a more mature age to make such a drastic decision.
And that seems to be a reasonable point to make. Marriage isn’t just the coming together of two people for life, it’s the combination of taxes and incomes. It’s living together day in and day out for the next sixty, seventy, or eighty-plus years. It’s raising kids together and funding their college educations. It’s complete and utter faith in one another.
As we mentioned earlier, this new wave of radical young women choosing progressive ideals over the aging conservative models – choosing living together or dating over marriage, or making money over marrying – are the tools of the future. While some aspects of feminism are no doubt extreme, the majority of the movement has roots in fighting for equality. We live in a new age, and it stands to reason that women should be able to choose their own path in life.
Amanda Marcotte, writer for Slate, says in a response to an article called ‘Marry Young’, “I’m glad young marriage is working out for Shaw [the author of ‘Marry Young’], but for the majority of women, dating and cohabitating until they’re more sure is working out just fine.”
She makes perhaps the most convincing argument against young marriage in saying, “If he’s good enough to marry, he’ll still be around when you’re ready to make that leap.”
That seems more than fair. Surely, your decision to get married (or not) is – or should be – entirely your own. If there’s a silver lining to any of this, it’s that you live in an age and a country where marriage is everything but required, and you are more than capable of making your own decisions.
Personal preference can be a wonderful thing.