13 Nov “Get Me to the Church on Time:” Does waiting to marry make us any happier?
When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke at a college commencement this past year he chose an interesting topic to address – marriage. He urged young people to actively pursue marriage: “Combining your life with another person … is tremendously challenging and enormously rewarding … Some people could get married but choose to take more time, they say, for themselves. Others plan to wait until they’re well into their 30s or 40s before they think about getting married. They’re going to miss so much of living, I’m afraid.” Romney’s interesting advice to marry younger may sound foreign to twenty-somethings – increasing numbers of whom are no longer actively pursuing marriage as a life goal, and many of whose parents, according to a recent study conducted at Brigham Young University are also showering them with anti-marriage advice. However, recent research indicates that Romney’s advice may not be too far from the mark:
I. Later marriages appear to have a bit better survival rates but “The greatest indicated likelihood of being in an intact marriage of the highest quality is among those who marry from ages 22-25.” This is the conclusion from a study by sociologists Norval Glenn, Robert Love and Jeremy Uecker of Baylor University who found that those who marry later have poorer quality marriages than those who marry earlier in their twenties. The study also suggests that couples who marry in their twenties have more frequent sex and are more likely to hold a common faith and traditions than those who marry later.
II. Unmarried twenty-somethings reported higher rates of depression and drinking, and lower life satisfaction than their married peers. This information is from the “Knot Yet” report released earlier this year by the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Council.
III. Men who marry in their mid-twenties make more money. This statistic also comes from the “Knot Yet” marriage report issued by the University of Virginia. Interestingly, the report shows that men who never marry make the least amount of money, in most cases even less than men who marry in their teens.
IV. Although women who marry in their mid-twenties do make less money, they are actually happier than women who marry later in life. Married women often have the financial freedom to make other valuable contributions in nurturing children and in community service and volunteer work which are also very beneficial to society and to their own personal well-being.
V. Those who don’t marry by their mid-twenties are often now choosing to engage in premarital relationships that research has identified will put them and their children at risk for a plethora of other problems. It seems pretty evident that with the U.S. marriage rate for adults at a record low 51% and cohabitation rates on the rise that more and more young adults are choosing pre-marital sexual relations and are often foregoing marriage altogether. A recent Wall Street Journal essay points out that this is a losing situation for both adults and children. The adults miss out on the financial and emotional benefits of marriage and often get trapped in a cycle of unstable relationships and multiple partners. As a great deal of research has shown, such instability is one of the greatest risks to children’s well-being – greatly increasing the likelihood that they will experience academic, social and emotional problems like poor grades, drug abuse and (perpetuating the cycle) unmarried childbearing.
Given the foregoing data it appears that Romney may be right on target. The rewards and challenges of marriage may be the very thing that young adults need to lead fulfilling lives. As he put it, “When you are living to the fullest, beyond yourself, beyond comfort, life is most full and exhilarating.” Perhaps forthright parents’ best advice could be to encourage youth to follow the path that has been proven to lead to happiness and well-being since the beginning of civilization – “get married, stay married” – four simple words of advice that could become extremely meaningful to the quality of their lives.