Getting Married Early

An ultimately unconvincing but nonetheless thought-provoking post about the case for marrying earlier, from Karen Swallow Prior at The Atlantic:

Of course, the basis for marriage has changed considerably over the course of history, and the changes in the ages at which people marry merely reflect these shifting foundations. For much of human history, marriage was based on economic expediency, its purpose being political and financial maintenance or gain. Then in the modern age, as an outgrowth of the Protestant Reformation and its emphasis on the individual, the ideal of the companionate marriage arose. The basis of the companionate marriage was neither “romantic love” (a la the Arthurian legends and Romeo and Juliet) nor economic and political expediency. Its foundation was a “reasonable love” that made two people well-matched partners (companions) for marriage, one which carried with it obligations including, but also going beyond, the temporal realm of the private household.

File this one under extremely good sentences:

Under the hedonistic model of marriage, it makes sense to stay single long enough to accumulate the things that can be brought into an eventual union as a kind of experiential dowry.

I don’t know if this means anything, but she seems to be religious, and she’s a regular church attendee. Might social pressure also make a convincing case for earlier marriage?



  1. Jan

    Social pressure is often a reason for many marriages. Marriage is challenging enough under ideal circumstances. Being married in your teens must be brutally difficult. How can an individual in their teens love, honor, support and protect their partner when their own development is not yet complete? It is fundamentally unfair to expect an adolescent to comport oneself as an adult within the institution. Due to the challenging nature of marriage, is it not in one’s best interest to enter into marriage with the deck stacked in their favor? Why not spend teen and young adult years growing up?

  2. Ethan

    Umm. I think that reflects the hedonistic view of marriage as an institution meant to maximally benefit each partner, using the language of the article, as a ‘capstone’ rather than a ‘cornerstone’ experience. Respectfully I think you’re mistaken if you believe human development ends at whatever arbitrary age it is currently most appropriate to get married. People change and develop their whole lives and I think if marriage is to survive in any salvageable form (and we should ask, is that even a worthwhile project?) it should reflect that, rather than the bougie idea that only mature adults (again, what does that mean?) should enter into such a ‘challenging’ institution. I think the point of the article is that marriage can be a balm for precisely the type of tumultuous development you’re talking about. Obviously, it’s not for everyone. But I think the attack on hedonistic marriage is pretty damning. It’s like you’re only expected to get married once your resume and bank account is appropriately full—that’s a pretty ugly, materialistic idea—one that also happens to be a norm on the cultural landscape to which a wide swath of the population are pressured to conform.

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