Home > John's Blogs, Marriage > Is Early Marriage A Good Thing?

Is Early Marriage A Good Thing?

Our culture currently is sending the message that marrying later is better.  I don’t see this communicated overtly, but average ages of first marriages for both men and women are trending upwards. 

Combine that piece of information with the fact that abstinence education is failing, and one person has a counter-cultural conclusion: we should encourage people to marry younger!  For full disclosure, I did not take this piece of advice.  I married in my early 30’s (criticize away if you must, but believe me – it wasn’t for lack of effort!!).  So, I’m curious – what do some of my younger, unmarried friends think of this advice?  Read the article, and let me know.  Frankly, I’m not sure what I think of his view.

To get you started, here’s the introduction to the article:

Virginity pledges. Chastity balls. Courtship. Side hugs. Guarding your heart. Evangelical discourse on sex is more conservative than I’ve ever seen it. Parents and pastors and youth group leaders told us not to do it before we got married. Why? Because the Bible says so. Yet that simple message didn’t go very far in shaping our sexual decision-making.

So they kicked it up a notch and staked a battle over virginity, with pledges of abstinence and accountability structures to maintain the power of the imperative to not do what many of us felt like doing. Some of us failed, but we could become “born again virgins.” Virginity mattered. But sex can be had in other ways, and many of us got creative.

Then they told us that oral sex was still sex. It could spread disease, and it would make you feel bad. “Sex will be so much better if you wait until your wedding night,” they urged. If we could hold out, they said, it would be worth it. The sheer glory of consummation would knock our socks off.

Such is the prevailing discourse of abstinence culture in contemporary American evangelicalism. It might sound like I devalue abstinence. I don’t. The problem is that not all abstainers end up happy or go on to the great sex lives they were promised. Nor do all indulgers become miserable or marital train wrecks. More simply, however, I have found that few evangelicals accomplish what their pastors and parents wanted them to.

Indeed, over 90 percent of American adults experience sexual intercourse before marrying. The percentage of evangelicals who do so is not much lower. In a nationally representative study of young adults, just under 80 percent of unmarried, church- going, conservative Protestants who are currently dating someone are having sex of some sort. I’m certainly not suggesting that they cannot abstain. I’m suggesting that in the domain of sex, most of them don’t and won’t.

What to do? Intensify the abstinence message even more? No. It won’t work. The message must change, because our preoccupation with sex has unwittingly turned our attention away from the damage that Americans—including evangelicals—are doing to the institution of marriage by discouraging it and delaying it.

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  1. Gary
    August 13, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    I got married at 22. My wife was 19.

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