The Problem of Delaying Marriage

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Jim's picture

we must encourage young Christians not to delay marriage, nor to marry in haste, but to make marriage a priority in the critical years of young adulthood

I'd like to know how one would do this?

TylerR's picture

One of those things easier to write about than to implement! A few observations for young men that are likely worth nothing:

  • Stop looking for "the one," and look for a godly mate, instead.
  • Stop the 10-year dating interlude, and get married, for goodness' sake!
  • Stop allowing your teenager to stay a child - don't encourage the extension of adolescence into the 20's
  • Treat your teens like adults, and hold them accountable

I was married at 18 to a woman who was 27. I didn't spend time searching for "the one." We both met at the bookstore we worked at. I thought she was beautiful, sweet and nice, decided I wanted to marry her, and made it my mission in life to get to know her. It worked. We got married. Here we are, years later.

Don't really know what else to say. God's providence is different for everybody. My experience probably isn't typical.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Susan R's picture

The problem is not delaying marriage, it's delaying adulthood. The way our culture infantalizes teens is damaging. They are cut off from adults and the realities of adulthood. Our expectations are low and keep getting lower, which is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I recommend The Case Against Adolescence by Robert Epstein, PhD (and former editor in chief of Psychology Today). 

When we start equipping our kids with knowledge, experience, and responsibility, and expect them to grow up, they will do so. As long as we think of them as little more than a walking, talking meat sack full of raging hormones, they'll think of themselves that way too.

I disagree with the idea of the goal being marriage--the goal is a responsible adult. Then they will be ready for marriage.

And ditto Tyler.

JNoël's picture

YES!!!!!!!

I believe The One-ism is often found in certain, ah-hem, circles (I was in one of those circles most of my growing up life). The One belongs in science fiction movies (blue pill, anyone?). Walk in the Spirit. Marry your best friend who is also walking in the Spirit. If God doesn't want you to be wedded, he will make it abundantly clear - if you are walking in the Spirit. God has a way of doing that in every decision of life.

I love Kevin DeYoung's book Just Do Something. I know it is just another book, but it is worth reading.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

JNoël's picture

Hasty implies rushing without thoughtful consideration, wise council, etc. Delaying, in the context of the article, is to fall into the category of the current societal norm of just enjoying life as a single as long as one wants, avoiding marriage and its associated responsibilities.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

Bert Perry's picture

...Mohler really needs to emphasize "getting a decent paying job" a little more.   We can argue the importance of marriage until we're blue in the face, but if we don't "nudge" a young man to getting the skills he needs to pay for the upkeep of a wife and kids, all of that is going to be completely irrelevant.  He's simply going to say "my paycheck isn't getting to the end of the month already....and you expect me to support a wife?"

And yes, this kind of question ought to be high on the minds of Bible college administrators and staff--if they're not accredited, and the skills they're teaching are not transferable, they are more or less taking tens of thousands of dollars to....qualify young people for the manual labor jobs they were already qualified for.

In other words, you want young people to get married?  Great!  Make sure they're ready for marriage.  That's why our ancestors split family landholdings, purchased apprenticeships, and the like.  We should do no less.

JNoël's picture

Hence Mohler's remark about not marrying in haste. I think the point of the article stands on its own; if he wanted to do a series on marriage, I'm pretty sure he would touch on the need for the marriage to be at least reasonably financially viable.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

TylerR's picture

My son will be headed off to college in a few years. He wants to be a missionary. This is what I've told him:

  • Get a secular undergrad degree doing something you like. NO BIBLE DEGREE!
  • Get an MA in Bible
  • Go to the mission field

I've been extremely fortunate, because I learned a trade and have a secular undergrad degree. I don't have to be a Pastor. I've been doing law enforcement/investigations since I was 18. Pastoring came later. I've met too many good men, at poor churches which can't afford them, whose wives work like slaves to help support the family and provide insurance, while the Pastor is forced to get a menial part-time job driving a schoolbus. Why are they in that predicament? Because these good Pastors don't know how to do anything else. They can't get a quality secular job.

I don't want that to happen to my son. Be a Pastor. Be a missionary. Just be sure you can get a good job, too. For that, you need a secular undergrad.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

JBL's picture

Love Al Mohler, but I wonder if he's overreaching in his concluding statement since he doesn't have hard data about Christian marriages.  Does he really know that Christians (truly born again, not cultural) are purposefully delaying marriage?

My experience is that very few Christian singles espouse the value of intentionally putting off marriage for secular or selfish pursuits.

John B. Lee

Aaron Blumer's picture

... mostly not there.

"husband and wife achieving adulthood together".... also not there.

If I could do it all over, I would wait longer before marrying. We live twice as long as humans did a few centuries ago. There's really no rush either for adulthood or for marriage. But there are important differences between the two: since life is about responsibility, something is lost by delaying adulthood unduly. Marriage is also about responsibility/stewardship, but there is much to be lost from undue haste. In the idealistic case where all the other variables are perfect, sooner is better than later... I'll give him that.

Barry L.'s picture

Universities are not there solely for people to find employment the rest of their lives. Higher learning encompasses enriching a person's life in fine arts, literature, social, religious type studies as well as professions and trades.  It's on the individual to determine what is best for him to study, and if he is from a middle to low income situation, he/she should probably get profession/trade training before pursuing other things.  But that's not the job of the university to make that determination. They are training adults.

As to marriage, I believe there has always been a maturity gap between the sexes. Women, I believe, have always been more ready for marriage at a younger age than men, Tyler R's situation aside.  In Biblical times, it seemed the male was around 30 and married a late teen or 20's wife. It also seems that way up and 'til 19th and 20th Centuries, but honestly don't know the history of this.  

The only stats I could find were starting of the 20th Century.

http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0005061.html

 

It seems that men's marital age hasn't changed that much since 1890, but there was a severe dip in the age in the decades after WWII. I wander if men marrying at 22 was more an anomaly than mid to late 20's.  The women's age has changed more. Don't know if biologically that's an issue in this day and age or not.

JNoël's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

There's really no rush either for adulthood or for marriage. But there are important differences between the two: since life is about responsibility, something is lost by delaying adulthood unduly.

What does "delaying adulthood" mean?

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

JNoël's picture

Barry L. wrote:

As to marriage, I believe there has always been a maturity gap between the sexes. Women, I believe, have always been more ready for marriage at a younger age than men...  

I believe this is a common misconception. A general sense of being more socially well-behaved and having a desire to have a husband and children does not automatically make a woman more mature than a man. Men are generally better equipped to handle challenges, overcome obstacles, conduct crisis management and apply decision making, and generally can do so at younger ages than women.

Neither makes one more "mature" than the other - just different.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

Jim's picture

My sister & brother-in-law were married at 20 / 19

I was 17 so I thought they were very mature

My parent's didn't approve. My sister had just finished her 2nd year of college. She worker to pay for her husband's college tuition. 

There marriage lasted until he died at 61

 

 

Aaron Blumer's picture

What does "delaying adulthood" mean?

By way of definition, the apostle said when he became a man he put away childish things. What’s universal with children is minimal responsibilities, generally poor judgment, extensive dependence on others to care for them, relative non-productivity.

So I’d define adulthood along the lines of leaving all that behind: independence, responsibility, productivity, good judgment.

As for “unduly delayed,” I really think that has more to do with trajectory than location. What I mean is, I wouldn’t think a guy who is 22 and living for free in his parents’ basement has failed grow up on time if he’s going to school, working part time, etc. If he’s 32 and in that situation, it still depends on what has gone before. If he’s been part time and going to school for more than a decade, there is some growing up that should have happened there by now. So there are a lot of variables there and I’d hesitate to pass judgment.

On the other hand, you have guys (and women too) who are employed and have families but they still think everyone around them exists for their personal benefit… and this is a kind of childishness parents should be working hard to grow kids out of before they’re even teens. So I guess there are many ways to remain improperly immature... I think I hit the main ones though.

Ed Vasicek's picture

I would hate to be accountable for directing couples to marry at a young age.  To me, this sounds more like a rural ethic that has been "Biblicized."

I think the one-size fits-all approach is one of the blights of conservative evangelicals/fundamentalists.

I do, however, think it is appropriate to address the need for developing emotional maturity.  We have a generation of young adults "failing to launch," and the "Peter Pan syndrome" is common.   Many teens today do not WANT to grow up.  That has certainly changed.

At one time, marriage was the genuine indicator that one was now an adult. With the decline of marriage (and shacking up) in society at large, and the break-up of many marriages, it is no longer considered a marker of maturity.  That has changed and is tragic, but reacting to this change still should not coerce us into marriage before we are ready.  We are talking about people's lives here.  I became a pastor at age 22 and married at age 23.  I was ready for both, IMO.  Another guy might be ready for neither until he is 30.  We are all different.

I think it is great to have a career to fall back upon, but there is a down side to that, too.  It is OFTEN tempting to leave ministry because there are so many discouragements.  The more messed-up people are, the worse ministry gets.  If it is too easy to leave ministry and slide into a secular job, many pastors would do so, IMO.  Pastor's can be just as tempted to play the "God's will" card as lay persons -- esp. when things get rough.  The deceitful human heart can convince us that running from pressure and a sense of failure is God's will -- even when it is not.  So it is a double-edged sword.  I think much of this depends upon when in life, you get the sense of being called to ministry.  I was called while completing my A.A.S. degree in Electronics Engineering Technology, which I completed (but never used) first.  Of course, the world of electronics has changed since 1976!

I agree that the one "soul mate" approach is ridiculous.  As a matter of fact, such thinking is often the basis for unfaithfulness in marriage.

"The Midrash Detective"

JNoël's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

What does "delaying adulthood" mean?

By way of definition, the apostle said when he became a man he put away childish things. What’s universal with children is minimal responsibilities, generally poor judgment, extensive dependence on others to care for them, relative non-productivity.

So I’d define adulthood along the lines of leaving all that behind: independence, responsibility, productivity, good judgment.

Okay, then perhaps "there's really no rush for adulthood" isn't really the best way to put it. Parents should be continuously training their children to grow in responsibility, judgment, independence and productivity. I don't think there is an adultometer with a scale that has a number where a person can be declared to be an adult. I don't think a person needs to "rush to adulthood" - but parenting a child in a manner that allows his growth in those areas to stagnate is not good.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg

Bert Perry's picture

Regarding marriage statistics, a few points of reference are first of all that marriage is no longer expected--sure, those who do marry are getting married at about the same age as in 1890, but I'd guess a far lower proportion are actually getting married now.  (censored statistics, as it were)  And that's how you would recognize the problem today--a greater proportion of singles, people living at home, etc..

Agreed that we did have an anomaly in the forties and fifties--keep in mind that if a girl wanted to hear about how her love was doing off at the wars, she had to marry him or keep on very good terms with his family.   Hence a lot of people married young at the time.

Regarding the ancients, I'd be interested in Barry's sources for the claim that men married around 30 in Bible times.  I'd been told that Pharisees were expected to be married at age 18, and that women might marry even in their mid-teens--per Song of Songs 8, really once physical maturity kicked in.  So I'm skeptical of the claim that men married around 30 when they were eligible for military service at 20, and when quite frankly they could often expect to be dead by age 40 or 50.    There is a reason, after all, that Scripture notes that gray hair is the crown of the aged--one might wonder if it wasn't that common at the time.  

TylerR's picture

It is indeed dangerous for a Pastor to play the "God card" and give people generic, broad-based advice. Every situation is different. I mentioned, above, that I believe my situation is probably the exception.

However, I wonder if it is only the exception because our society has extended adolescence and fostered a mystical idea of "the one." If you add a misconception of "God's will" to teens who genuinely want to know what God would have them to do, then you have a recipie for delaying marriage. Add to that our society's obsession with extended male adolescence, and I feel very sorry for young ladies out there looking for a man.
 

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Ed Vasicek's picture

Tyler R wrote:

Add to that our society's obsession with extended male adolescence, and I feel very sorry for young ladies out there looking for a man.

Tyler, I agree with you -- except I want to sound a cautious note I have often shared.

No marriage is better than a BAD marriage.

I have known a number of people who rushed into marriage and they were not ready.  Here is a case study. I refused to officiate a wedding. The bride was an older teen and pregnant. The father was the same age.  They both claimed to be repentant, but the young man had no job and showed no initiative to get one.  Their marriage survived (it has been about 20 or 25 years), but the wife has supported the family.

I know of another situation where a man will not work, but is like a pet.  He fathers the children and maybe does a small amount of housework.  Very small amount.

The Bible places a high premium on marriage, but also on singleness.  I do not think we have to look for the "one," but we do need to look for the right KIND of person.  A professing believer is not the only criteria.  

For any BIG decision, it is better to wait than to rush.  Just because some people get away with rushing does not mean most do.

IMO, it is much better to delay or even remain single than be trapped in a bummer marriage.

 

 

"The Midrash Detective"

CAWatson's picture

Go to trade school first, followed by an undergrad degree (2 year AA followed by the BS/BA). The better jobs these days are in skilled trades, unfortunately.

Get an MDiv. MA without Bible College is nice, but it doesn't give classes on preaching or pastoral theology, and depending on the school, history and languages.

Aaron Blumer's picture

JNoël wrote:

Okay, then perhaps "there's really no rush for adulthood" isn't really the best way to put it. Parents should be continuously training their children to grow in responsibility, judgment, independence and productivity. I don't think there is an adultometer with a scale that has a number where a person can be declared to be an adult. I don't think a person needs to "rush to adulthood" - but parenting a child in a manner that allows his growth in those areas to stagnate is not good.

Agreed. 

There's a tendency to react to problems with overcorrections... so some seem to feel that parents are failing if they don't have have their kids doing all sorts of adult things by age 12. I don't see any point in that. But if parents don't have sufficient talent and energy and time to excel in both job skills development and character development, they'd better focus on character development. I'd argue that should be priority in any case. If a kid learns not to be lazy, he/she can always learn accounting and power tools and even computer skills later in life when the need arises. Character (including "emotional maturity") first, career and job independence second, marriage third.