When it comes to having a happy marriage, researchers have found that getting hitched between the ages of 22 and 25 seems to be the sweet spot. That’s just an average, of course, but the benefits outlined below mostly focus on “young” as being one’s early to mid-twenties.
You (and those you date) will be carrying less baggage
I was recently talking to a single friend in his 30s who was bemoaning the dating scene for folks his age. He said, “When you look at it, if a person is reasonably normal, they’ve probably had about one semi-serious relationship each year, or every other year, since they’ve been teenagers. When you get to your thirties, you’re carrying more than a decade’s worth of break-ups, lingering feelings for past partners, trust issues, and disappointments with you.
Everyone you date has got a bunch of baggage.”
When you marry young, you and your wife have less exes, old flames, comparisons, and retroactive jealousy of each other’s past relationships to deal with. You can start life together with more of the guileless freshness that lends itself to unabashed and lasting romance.
You’re more likely to marry someone with whom you’re highly compatible.
A lot of folks put off marriage so they can shop around longer, thinking that the more they look, the better chance they’ll have of finding someone who’s just the right match for them.
Yet research suggests you’re more likely to marry a true peer and someone whom you have lots in common with if you marry in your 20s as opposed to later. It makes sense. Couples who get married in their 20s often meet in college, a time in your life when you’re surrounded by tons of people who are of similar age and background and have similar interests. It’s easier to find someone who’s the yin to your yang in the classes, clubs, and extracurriculars you’re interested in, than it is to sort, or swipe, through a random assortment of women online.
So too, the longer you wait to get married, the more ideal potential partners get taken off the market. As Dr. Meg Jay, author of The Defining Decade puts it, “Even though searching may help you find a better partner, the pool of available singles shallows over time, perhaps in more ways than one.”
You’ll have more s*x (even years after you marry).
Staying single may seem like a good way to keep the s*xual good times rolling. Yet surprisingly enough, research has actually shown that married men have more and better s*x than their single peers. Why would this be? Getting a woman to come home with you, even if you’ve mastered PUA techniques, takes time and effort. Instead of having to troll nightclubs or lucking out that the girl on the internet you’re interested in will also swipe right, married guys got the Mrs. to go home to.
If you want to enjoy a robust married s*x life even in your 30s and 40s, the research also suggests that couples who tied the knot in their mid-twenties have more s*x than couples who got hitched later on. Why? Researchers aren’t sure. Maybe it’s because you have more energy for s*x in your 20s, and what starts out hot and heavy, echoes on that way through the decades.
You’re more likely to describe your marriage as happy.
A study found that couples who married between the ages of 22 and 25 were more likely to describe their marriage as “very happy” than couples who got married in other age brackets. The researchers speculate the reason marital satisfaction declines after the age of 25 is that spouses that get married older often feel like they’re “settling” with a less-than-ideal marriage partner. (See the point above on the early twenties being the best time to find someone with whom you’re strongly compatible.) More s*x may play a role as well.
My own, as yet unstudied theory, is that it likely has to do with the state of your brain in your early twenties. Its prefrontal cortex — the mature, disciplined, future-planning part — has largely formed, so you’re not as impulsive as you were in your teens. But, it hasn’t completely finished settling yet (that happens around age 26), so it’s still capable of feeling the kind of intense passion, excitement, comfort with risk-taking, and true high from bonding with others that mark one’s younger years. It may be this perfect combo of ration and emotion that allows the 20-something brain to experience love in a more visceral and deeper way, and launches young married couples into a stronger emotional connection with their spouse than their older marrying counterparts. By one’s late twenties, the brain has finished setting up and its executive center wields stronger control; as a consequence, the passions get checked to a greater degree. You’re steadier, but it takes more to get excited about things, including relationships.
You grow together.
It’s oft been noted that it’s difficult to join two lives together when each party has been living independently for a long time, than when a couple starts out life together early on. There’s actually a neurological reason behind that observation.
When you delay marriage, not only do you become more set in your ways, but your brain’s a lot more set too. It’s definitely still possible to h*ck relational “us” pathways through the abundance of independent “me” trails that were deeply carved in one’s adolescence, it’s just harder to do.
You’ll have an easier time navigating your 20s, and can be more successful in reaching your professional and academic goals.
Your 20s can be a difficult time. You’re balancing school and work, trying to get your finances in shape, working to get a handle on your new adult responsibilities, and figuring out and launching your career. Having a spouse by your side during this time can make your 20s easier and more successful in a couple key ways.
Marriage also helps you reach your career and academic goals by providing stability and fostering focus. Socializing and dating requires a lot of time, money, and emotional bandwidth. When you’ve found your partner-in-crime, you’re able to save your money and direct your energy towards your other life goals. Indeed, studies show that married men in their 20s drink less and work harder than their single peers.
That’s not to say that the fun times end once you get married though. There’s a prevalent myth out there that early marriage will prevent you from doing cool stuff before you turn 30, like traveling the world or starting a business. On the contrary, having a spouse to pursue these activities with can make such adventures both more enjoyable and easier to execute.
Your financial picture may improve.
A lot of folks put off marriage until they feel their finances are sound, which in today’s world, is a goal that’s harder and harder to achieve. As we saw above, financial issues can indeed put a strain on young marriages. Yet such challenges can be handled with maturity, and what may be stressful in the short-term can work towards your long-term interests.
Research shows that getting married can significantly improve your financial picture. According to Alex Roberts at the UVA’s National Marriage Project, those who marry see “income increases of 50 to 100 percent, and net wealth increases of about 400 to 600 percent. Continuously married households had about double the income and four times the net worth of the continuously divorced and never-married, on average.”
“The point people miss,” Roberts says, “is that marriage is a tremendous wealth building institution.” This fact sets up a catch-22 that’s all too prevalent in our culture: folks are waiting to get married until their finances improve, but getting married could improve their finances!
You’ll have an easier time having kids, increase their chances of being healthy, and be better able to keep up with them.
While modern advances have allowed folks to postpone having children, the reality is that both men and women have a biological clock and having kids gets harder and riskier the longer you wait. The research shows that children of older fathers have increased risks for several physical and mental disorders compared to children of younger fathers.
Besides being easier to conceive when you and your wife are younger, it’s also just plain easier to raise your resulting progeny.
Don’t get me wrong — I know plenty of older guys who do great as older dads. They’re in shape and full of vim and vigor and can keep up with their kiddos and career. But even they’ve said to me privately that they wish they were 30 and starting a family rather than 40.
You don’t have to cram marriage, career, and kids into a few short years.
Many put off marriage and children to focus on their education and career, only to have all of these responsibilities simultaneously, and stressfully, collide in their 30s.
If you marry when you’re 30, and you want to have kids, you’ll have less flexibility as to when to have them (and how you’d like to space ‘em). You’ll have to get started with the baby-making process fairly soon after tying the knot, which gives you less child-free years with your wife — some of the most enjoyable years of a marriage. And at the same time that you’re settling into married life, and adjusting to being a dad, your career is likely starting to take off too. Unsurprisingly, research shows that those who delay marriage and children end up being saddled with greater stress.
Pursuing marriage, children, and career in successive phases, allows you to enjoy each season to the fullest.
So let me be clear before we part ways: while marrying young can impart all the benefits outlined above, I’m not arguing that getting married younger is always better than getting married when you’re older. Nor am I saying that if you’re young and single, you need to rush out and put a ring on the finger of some gal.
Like most things in life, there are pros and cons to each approach, and life circumstances are going to affect which path someone takes. The most important factor in a happy marriage is not age, but choosing the right person. Sometimes that happens earlier on in your life, and sometimes it takes longer. And those who find the peanut butter to their jelly later in life can absolutely go on to have spectacularly happy marriages.
In other words, once you’ve found the gal you can’t live without, you should absolutely feel confident in deciding to take on the rest of your lives side-by-side, and embarking with her on one of life’s greatest adventures.
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