Tying the knot young: A good or bad idea?

Arja Kumar (TheLorian)

The other night I had a dream, or nightmare, that I had been proposed to by an unknown stranger. It was in the middle of a Walgreens potato chip aisle and there was a parade of people in circus clothes. The stranger got down on one knee, pulled out some rusted old ring, and asked me to marry him. I politely and kindly rejected (not because of the ring, but because I had no clue who he was), saying, “I’m sorry, but I don’t know you at all.” The suitor was saddened and retreated out of the Walgreens with the hoard of people. His mother flashed me a snarky, nasty look.

Where did this dream come from? And why was I thinking such things at the tender age of 21? I sat down with my daily bowl of cereal and scrolled through Facebook in the morning, scratching my head. Ah, there it was. The subconscious culprit. A flux of matrimonial pictures on social media. Bizarrely, most of these posts were coming from people around the ages of 18-24. Pictures of the surprised face covering a mouth next to a big diamond ring, elegant bridesmaids’ parties, elaborate wedding decorum, calligraphed invitations, or cinematic engagement trailers. Still, I scratch my head thinking whether I am really aging or whether these people are just really young. 

Most would think that today’s youngsters do not give much thought to commitments like marriage. Neither should they bother because they are at an age where they supposedly do not have to be serious. Yet, I see quite the opposite. For example, in talking with some of my former high school classmates, they describe why they chose to get married at a young age. Some of the things they said were:

“Because I truly love my wife, knew we made a good team, and with me being in the military it would make our lives better to marry early.”

“I’m choosing to get married because I don’t think you should wait on what you want. I know I want to marry the person I’m with and I know I’m going to marry him so I figured to do it sooner rather than later!”

“I just knew she was the one. I didn’t want anybody else to take her. It’d rip me to shreds.”

“Because I want to spend each day with someone I love rather than dating around people I just like.” 

Although these points of view can be understood and sympathized with, I think that it is not the best idea to get married young. Tying the knot young is perhaps a bad idea because one does not get the proper chance to solidify their own identity. When I encounter these classmates, they eerily seem different in their identity. No longer do I see spontaneous, childish, playful people. The whim has vanished. I see people who have matured too fast, ghostlike copy-cats of their own mothers and fathers. I see a rewind tape of a ring on a finger, changing baby diapers, golfing in Florida when you’re 80. I feel their limp handshake in the grocery store, vaguely remembering who I am or how we sat shoulder to shoulder in high school math class, making fun of the teacher. Selective amnesia about anything other than hitched life. Their lives become consumed by things like family reunions, baby showers, and fall-themed photo shoots. Where are the Mt. Everest pictures, the ten years of wandering around Paris, the Great American Novels? Surely one can do these while cuffed up, but if we look at the pattern that most people in society follow, is it realistic? Most snuggle into a life comforting and settling. I find this somewhat dooming in a sense.     

More so, going straight from the parents’ house to married life, one is forever identifying himself or herself as someone’s kid, someone’s spouse, someone’s parent. One might even struggle to know what are his or her own interests anymore because they become so acclimated to the other person or may even worship the other person, adapting their likes. Knowing who you are on your own is vital before coming into an equal partnership. 

I think one should work hard at developing oneself before introducing someone else into one’s life. One might risk losing himself or herself, their individuality, freedom, and truth of himself or herself if they commit their whole life to another at such a young age. This goes for dating as well, which I personally do not see a point in. Although under most laws, people are recognized as adults at age 18, the University of Rochester Medical Center cites research that shows most people’s brains do not reach full maturity until age 25. There are older teenagers and young adults who hurriedly want to tie the knot with their girlfriends or boyfriends, who they swear are the ones. Marriage and nearly any other serious matter in life require a healthy dose of practicality. Something like, “It is not all hearts-and-flowers”. Besides, feeling a great deal of affection for someone, one must also make the rational evaluation of who is fit enough to live with for the rest of their life. That requires transcending beyond the realm of pure emotion and logically thinking if the other person has compatible values, mindsets, and life aims. Though this may seem like a cruel or judgmental thing to do, prudence is necessary for the making of a flourishing life. Not taking the time and wisdom to choose the right person can hinder one’s life and cause a lot of unnecessary suffering, pain, and wasted time.

Does this kill the passion or fun of our relations with others? Yes, maybe in a way. Not saying that one should logicize love. But should just be careful so that they make the right choice and don’t hurt themselves and others. 

In fact, U.S. Census statistics show a growing upward trend of median age at first marriage. In 2020, the median was at a historic highpoint of 28.1 for females and 30.5 for males. In one way, tying the knot at an older age is a good thing. One allows oneself more time to mature as a person, comes to know how to handle life and life problems, and gets ample free time to explore the world alone, settle into their career and dreams, and just live life individually. 

Yet, in one way, getting married young can be a good thing. You grow up with each other, you see each other grow as people, and you give yourself more time to enjoy the bond you have with each other. More so, committing early saves one from all the endless, futile wandering one would likely go through as a bachelor or bachelorette. I see my grandparents as a great example of this. They have been together for 54 years — since my grandpa was 20 and my grandma was 16. In conversation with them, they say the best part of their marriage has been all the time they spent together throughout life, in all sorts of different experiences. 

Relationships are a serious business and should not be taken lightly. The core of all good relationships is respect. One should be great friends with the other above all else. I think that is the only thing that lasts the test of time. So maybe young people who choose to get married early are growing wiser in relationship ethics. Maybe more are coming to realize that it is not fair or good to toss around people casually, sorting through them like a pile until they are tired of playing that game and want to settle down. Clearly, people are not dollhouse toys, and society’s prevalent casual relationship culture is frightening. Having a strong sense of value and commitment from the beginning is a great good and can only strengthen a relationship as time goes along. We should aim to have strong, long-lasting relationships in our life instead of a casual toss-up after toss-up. As philosopher Immanuel Kant once said, “Always treat people as ends in themselves, never as means to an end.” This implies that we should treat all people with respect and love for their inherent value rather than on what they can do for us.

All in all, one should get married when they are ready. There is no set timeline to life. Some think the question of matrimony should be avoided until we are of the right age, yet I think that initially wondering about and exploring such kinds of questions is not a bad idea. It gives one ample space and freedom to think and come to a truth about it.

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