12-Nov-2015 18 FEB
So, what is the right age to get married?
By Brendan Malone
On Wednesday a curious article appeared on the NZ Herald website suggesting that research proves that the best time to get married is between the ages of 28 and 32.
I have to be honest, I found myself chuckling when I read the article.
To put it simply: success in marriage has very little to do with the age at which a man and woman are when they make their wedding vows.
Instead, what determines success or failure in marriage is the willingness of a husband and a wife to work at (or possibly even fight for, if required) the commitment they made to each other on their wedding day.
This ability to make a gift of self is obviously aided greatly by the support that a married couple receives from their family and wider community.
Which is precisely why it is so very important for the church to be actively discipling married couples and assisting them with resources and support to be the best husbands, wives, mothers and fathers that they can be.
Not only is this sort of support essential for them as a couple and a family, but it also builds a culture of future marriage and family successes due to the fact that being raised in a stable loving marriage is so important to someone’s future relationship outcomes.
So where does this idea of there being a perfect age for marriage come from?
I think there are several factors involved here.
Firstly there is the modern tendency to view marriage as a destination that you arrive at, rather than as a journey that you embark upon with another.
So much harm has been caused by this mythology that tends to view marriage as some sort of trophy that you achieve in life, and, which, of course, should always be shiny and perfect looking just like what happens at the end of every romantic movie.
Another factor is the modern tendency towards individualism and control.
We now want to dictate the terms of so much we do in life, largely because this offers us a false sense of security, safety and control about the lives we lead.
Not even human relationships have been spared from this tendency to reduce the human experience to some sort of project where outcomes are planned, and then manufactured in an attempt to maximise the greatest levels of self-gratification, or to be used as hallmarks of personal success and ‘having it all together.’
This obviously results in many people tragically and wrongly deeming themselves to be failures just because they haven’t achieved some cliched cookie-cutter ideal of what the perfect life is supposed to look and play out like.
Lastly, there is the issue of the modern compatibly culture, which places a totally disproportionate emphasis on compatibility between couples as a perquisite for marriage rather than as a fruit of a marriage authentically lived between a man and woman.
The author of the NZ Herald article suggested that by the age of 28 you are likely to have had several previous serious relationships, and that these experiences will aid a person as they enter into marriage.
That might be the case, or it could also equally be a major obstacle for marital success if you have picked up bad habits, cynicism, or are carrying major personal baggage with you into your marriage from those previous relationships.
So much of this idea is predicated on the false notion that marriages are ruined and doomed to inevitable failure if major points of difference are found to exist between a husband and wife after their wedding day.
In actual fact, the truth is that major points of difference, that are worked through with self-sacrificial love and effort are the very things that make a marriage strong and vibrant.
My wife and I have wildly varying approaches to different aspects of our relationship and practical day-to-day living, but not only has our marriage been made all the stronger by us having charted a way through theses differences, we are also more mature and well-rounded as individuals as a result of continuing to do this on a daily basis.
Whenever I speak to young people about marriage I always tell them that I am now far more compatible with my wife than I ever was the day we married, and that if we continue to commune together with self-sacrifice and care for each other, ten years from today we will be even more compatible than what we are right now.
The simple fact is that no matter what age you are, without self-sacrifice and support, marital success is almost certain to remain an elusive goal that will always be beyond your grasp.