What’s the Best Age to Get Married? Does Your Age Really Even Matter When You Marry?
We do a lot of international premarital counseling and Denver premarital counseling at Growing Self, so I’m always interested in sharing information about all matters related to creating a happy marriage, with a lifetime of love. I recently had the privilege of speaking with Kristen Skovira of Denver7 News about a topic that I find fascinating. Recent research suggests that there is an “ideal age” to get married — and it lowers your chance of divorce. I thought I’d share the highlights of the Best Age to Get Married interview with you.
The “Sweet Spot” For a Successful Marriage: The Best Age to Get Married
Nicholas H. Wolfinger, a sociologist at the University of Utah, has compiled data in family research that suggests that there is, in fact, a “sweet spot” or best age to get married. These studies have concluded that people who have a lower likelihood of divorcing than younger couples get married between the ages of 27 to about 31, as well as couples who marry in their later thirties and forties.
If you are considering getting married as a younger or an older couple out of those age ranges, please don’t get discouraged! Keep reading all the way to the end of the article. By looking at the research, I will hypothesize about why the statistics give the best age to get married, as well as weigh in with my expert advice from years of experience. According to Wolfinger’s research, this graph demonstrates divorce risk by looking at the age when a person first married. As a marriage counselor, I know that many couples want to create a love that will last a lifetime and are concerned about divorce rates.
Why Do Older or Younger Couples Seem to Have More Problems?
After looking at the graph, this question may be at the forefront of our minds.
While no one knows for sure why the risk of divorce seems to rise within a certain age demographic, I have a few theories:
1) Couples who marry in their late twenties may have personality factors and life circumstances that support happy marriages.
There is a lot of research documenting factors that support successful marriages. These factors include higher levels of education, and higher socio-economic status, as well as personal factors such as strong commitment, values around marriage and family, responsibility, and conscientiousness.
People who get married in their late twenties have given themselves time to get through college and/or graduate school, and get established in a career— evidence of personal responsibility and conscientiousness. Additionally, they have also prioritized finding a mate and cultivating a relationship (as opposed to spending six years hiking through Eurasia, joining the Peace Corps, or spending 80 hours a week clawing themselves up some corporate ladder).
Their life decisions may reflect their core values, which communicate that “marriage and family are very important to me.” Having that core value may help sustain their commitment to the inevitable ups and downs of marriage in years to come, as well as seek out support that will help them nourish their relationship during hard times. In contrast, if people delay marriage until later in life, it may be due to not having the same priorities around marriage and family. (Although it is important to note that many older adults absolutely do have these priorities — they just haven’t found “the one” yet).
2) People who marry later in life may be carrying “relationship baggage” into their new marriages.
The best age to get married doesn’t mean it’s the “easiest” age to get married. Swapping out one relationship for another doesn’t necessarily change you. People who have had a string of relationships through their twenties and thirties may be repeating the same negative relationship patterns with a succession of new partners. If they don’t do some work to identify and fix their rigid or unhelpful ways of relating in relationships, they are likely to carry those destructive patterns with them when they finally do marry. This is particularly true if marriages are fueled by anxiety as well as love. (As in, “I’m thirty-seven, and I really need to get married — stat.”)
Furthermore, all of us usually learn how to “do relationships” from our families of origin. The fact is that people in their 30’s and 40’s are children of the 70’s and 80’s — but these were decades when divorce rates were at an all-time high. Many Gen Xers and Gen Yers often did not have good models for how to repair and nourish healthy, happy marriages. Their parents chucked it when it got hard and chose to look elsewhere for their happiness. People who did not have good role models in the relationship department often need to get some guidance on “How To Do Relationships” — particularly if repeated relationship disappointments suggest that they may have room for improvement. Without using failed relationships as an opportunity for learning and growth, they’re likely to repeat negative patterns in new relationships.
3) Blended family situations are very difficult.
The infographic we’re discussing for the best age to get married is specific to first-time marriages. But I feel that it would be irresponsible for me not to touch upon a major factor impacting people who marry when they are older: blended family situations.
Many older couples with kids (even those who love each other very much, and are extremely excited about getting married to each other) are absolutely shocked by how difficult negotiating blended families can be. The higher divorce rates for second and third marriages reflect the grim reality: Blended families are uniquely challenging.
There are many reasons why blended families and step-families are hard. Most couples attempting step-parenting require support and guidance as they work through the turbulent first years of creating new family roles, figuring out boundaries with each other’s kids, and supporting each other as parents — while establishing a strong marriage. It can be emotionally harrowing.
Couples who successfully establish happy blended families do so through a great deal of intentional effort. I believe that statistics on divorce rates for older couples reflect the challenge that many blended families face.
The Best Age to Get Married: Statistics Are Not YOUR Reality
But here’s the truth — MOST couples have lovely, happy marriages no matter what age they marry. Divorce rates are falling, and half of what they were at their peak in the 1980s. Furthermore, statistics don’t account for personal factors. I personally have been with my husband since I was nineteen years old and got married when I was twenty-two. According to this nifty chart, I should have divorced long ago. Twenty years on, we’re happier than ever.
One way to ensure that you have a happy, satisfying, and secure marriage — no matter what age you are — is to get involved in high-quality premarital counseling before you get married. Premarital counseling allows you to get on the same page going into your marriage, and to solve potential problems before they even become a thing. It’s the responsible thing to do.
So maybe the best question you can ask is not “when is the ideal age to get married?” but “what can I do to ensure a marriage of happiness and love?”
All the best,
Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self. She is a licensed psychologist, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and a board-certified coach, as well as the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.
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