It’s been a while since I’ve found anything on Sam & The City that I wanted to comment about, but her blog yesterday on "Too young to tie the knot?" caught my eye. Sam’s blog in full below:
It seems we’re having one of our periodic worldwide moan-fests about the state of modern marriage. We’re either too young, too old, too rushed, too slow, doing it for all the wrong reasons or doing it with too much pomp and fanfare to be the real deal.
But if we are to believe the lurid headlines, then what is the biggest problem we women face? Modern men are refusing to bow to pressures to get hitched.
Their reasoning? They’re simply "too young" to settle down.
"Too young?!" the ring-hankering women retort back. After all, Juliet was 13 when she tied the knot with Romeo! Marie Antoinette married at 14, actress Drew Barrymore walked down the aisle at 19 and pop singer Avril Lavigne managed to lure her beau into tying the knot when she was just 21!
So what’s going on?
We all know there’s been a seismic shift in the marital landscape, yet, from my recent research, I’m a little confused as to what exactly the shift entails.
While more and more of my female friends seem to be tying the knot younger and younger (I’ve seen countless women in their early 20s get hitched in the past year), the Australian Bureau of Statistics would have us believe otherwise …
Apparently the average marital age for women has increased to 29 from 24 in 1985, while the men have really been pushing things back to a whopping 32 (up from 26).
Yet many would disagree.
Forbes magazine reckons there’s an increase in "starter marriages"; marriages that start too early and subsequently end too early. The story cites the cause of their downfall as the lack of maturity of the parties involved as well as their false fantasies of marriage.
So my questions are these:
Are we really marrying later, as statisticians would have us believe? Are we shunning the institution altogether? Or are we rushing to the altar more quickly than ever before? And are the women hankering for a ring a little too young and too aggressively for the men to comprehend?
A cautionary tale is recounted by my 24-year-old friend Ben, who, after finding himself dating a girl 10 years his senior, decided the right thing to do (in order to keep her happy) was to propose.
"I didn’t want to lose her," he said, "and I heard all that biological clock stuff, so I thought proposing would mean that I could keep her for good."
But the marital fantasy of sex on tap, increased domesticity, shared dishwashing duties and someone to help feed the cat while he went off to the footy quickly turned to reality.
"My mates were all partying and having a good time, and I was at home choosing wedding invitations and doing the seating arrangements. Suddenly it hit me that my life was going to be over before it had even begun. So I ended it. I lost the girl but gained back my life."
Prince William recently found himself in a similar position, with pressure from the world to tie the knot with long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton. After all, she was 25; almost an old maid by traditional princess standards.
Yet, at 24, the Prince felt way too young to tie the knot, telling a Sun reporter that he didn’t want to get hitched until he was "at least 28, or maybe 30".
The two however, had already shacked up. Middleton had allowed the Prince to "try before he buys", and, as Miranda Devine artfully opined, it was Middleton’s biggest mistake. "It is an old-fashioned concept but Middleton’s fate is a salutary lesson for young women contemplating shacking up with the love of their lives rather than holding out for a firm commitment." Ouch.
But perhaps he has good reason too.
A girlfriend who was so desperate to ditch the singleton label (and the fear of being labelled an "old maid" before her 25th birthday), rushed a poor bloke to the altar, only to figure out a couple of months later that the two were unsuitable for one another and a messy divorce ensued.
So back to age.
Is the delay to marry simply a man thing? Are women today still concerned as ever before about their biological clocks? And do women believe that the sooner they get the ring, the better?
Possibly. And while the women are secretly sizing up every man’s husband potential the minute they lay eyes on the poor lad, most of the time he’s only after a quick root and a hot date to accompany him to the annual office soiree …
Does age matter when it comes to marriage? What is too young to tie the knot? And are men more caught up in marital age than women?
So instead of putting in the hard yards at work today (short week, crap weather, lack of motivation all play bit parts in my current "who cares" state of mind), I wrote the following response:
Age is but a number, and if two people are truly committed to each other to want to take the plunge into the sanctity of marriage, then who has the right to say they are too young to be married? Wisdom and experience do not always come with age – they are gained from life lessons not necessarily always in sync with age.
Personally, I would have loved to have married young – I met and fell for the love of my life at the "tender age" of 20 and we were engaged after 6 weeks. Sadly, he passed away before we were married, and to this day, I haven’t yet come across another person I can definitively say I want to spend the rest of my life with.
I’m an almost 35 singleton who is in no hurry to marry. Yes, I would love to be married, and yes, I feel and hear my biological clock clanging loudly in my system, but there are still a number of other things in my life I want to iron out right now, namely career advancement and more financial stability. A partner to share my woes is nice, but there is no one better to rely on than yourself, and at the end of the day, I know I can best look after me, so I make taking care of myself a priority.
Most of my school friends married very young – the majority of them were married within 2 years of finishing high school, ie. by the time they turned 20. Seven years ago, I attended my 10 year high school reunion and I was pleased to learn that most of them were still happily married – amongst many things, they spoke of some valuable lessons learnt from marrying so young, such as the lack of financial stability, but for the most part, they worked through the various issues and their love continued to grow and prosper.
And I was shocked to learn that one of the girls was about to embark on her 3rd marriage – by the age of 27! She was quick to admit that in hindsight, she should not have married her first husband at the age of 17 (failed due to her infidelity), nor should she have married her second husband at the age of 20 to the reason her first marriage broke up. I heard through the grapevine last year that she was divorced again – goes to show some of us never learn from experience, regardless of age.
Of the weddings I attended over the past 5 years (for friends and family members of similar age to me), all of the couples have said that they would not have married any earlier for a variety of reasons. Some wanted more life experiences before marriage, some wanted to build a more stable financial future, but most were just not ready nor astute enough to make the commitment to trek down the aisle with their partners.
"For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, be faithful only to your partner so long as you both shall live."
Marriage is a 2-way street – it can only work if both parties are truly committed to each other, regardless of age.
After posting my comment, the following thoughts also crossed my mind:
The examples of "too young for marriage" that Sam used were not the best. Juliet killed herself after meeting, falling in love with, marrying and widowed by Romeo in the space of a week. Drew Barrymore went on to divorce the man she married at 19 after a month of wedded bliss – her second marriage to Tom Green lasted less than 6 months. Marie Antoinette’s marriage at 14 was to seal a military deal between France and Austria – she sobbed as she left her parents bound for a foreign land, ill-prepared for the French language and customs, and the marriage wasn’t consummated for 7 years.
As for Avril Lavigne, she might be only 21, but with money being no object, she has probably experienced life most people twice her age would not have experienced. She has successfully attained a level of standing and recognition within the music industry – her album sales are proof enough. As a performer, she has travelled the world extensively whilst on tour. And she has reaped financial reward from her album sales. In short: career – tick, extensive world travel – tick, financial security – tick. She has managed to achieve all of these goals that the minions (like me) all strive to attain by the time she was legally allowed to drink in most of the Western world, so what else was left to do? I for one am happy she found someone she wants to spend the rest of her life with and has made a commitment to "forsake all others", all by the age of 21.
As for Prince William – poor chicken – do you blame him for not wanting to get married? He has not had the best role models as far as "happily ever after" is concerned – as if growing up surrounded by broken marriages is not enough (Great Aunt Margaret, Aunt Anne, Uncle Andrew, Uncle Charles), his own parents’ very public and very ugly divorce would have put off the most ardent supporter of weddings.
Oh, and don’t even get me started on the "why buy the cow" sentiment so "artfully opined" by Miranda Divine. That’s another blog all together