Young love can be infectious with its smiles and hearts and happiness. But when it comes to marriage and its added reality of money and personal stress how young is too young to get hitched?
by Samantha Kemp-Jackson
Ah, young love.
Equally romanticized in both the popular media and timeless classics, the idea of a love so strong, so enduring, so right is something that has become the basis of many childhood and adolescent fantasies.
Travis Dyk, who lives in Ancaster, Ont., found the love of his life early and at 24 is now engaged to marry his fiancée, Carlie,* who is 19.
Both are thrilled with the prospect of tying the knot and see their upcoming nuptials as an opportunity to enjoy each other, to grow together and to spend as much time together as possible. Age was not a factor in the decision to get married, says Dyk. The mutual feelings that they’d found “The One” was the driving force behind their choice to tie the knot.
“I wouldn’t say it was a conscious choice of [me thinking] ‘ I want to get married young as opposed to when I’m older,’” says Dyk. “I fell in love with my girlfriend and knew I wanted to spend my life with her… she felt the same way about me. Since we both felt this way and discussed it for a few months, we decided to make the commitment.”
While his decision to marry may be looked at as suspect by those who believe that waiting is the way to go, Dyk doesn’t see any issues with making this life choice at 24. And he’s riding on a wave of support from his family and friends. “My parents raised me to be independent, and to be able to think for myself, so they trust my judgment when it comes to making decisions for my life,” he says.
And his young bride? Dyk says she, too, has her parents’ support. In fact, both of her sisters were also married at the same age.
But with Statistics Canada reporting in 2012 that 43.1 per cent of marriages are expected to end in divorce before a couple reaches their 50th anniversary—an increase from 39.3 per cent a decade earlier —can a young marriage survive?
NOT THE NORM
Dyk’s decision to get married young is increasingly atypical in this day and age. Between 1972 and 2008, the average age for newlyweds increased from 22.5 to 29.1 for women and from 24.9 to 31.1 for men. By 2011, the average age of Canadians getting married for the first time was 31 for men and 28 for women. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, marriage on the whole is becoming less popular, at least amongst the younger generation. Reasons for this trend towards singlehood can be attributed to things such as increased career focus, higher financial goals and the ease with which people are able to delay parenthood, especially women.
Family therapist, Gary Direnfeld, understands first-hand why marriage is so difficult, particularly for younger people. As a former host of the popular Canadian television program Newlywed, Nearly Dead, Direnfeld attributes a number of factors that make marriage between teens and young adults so challenging.
One of the key areas of contention for young married couples, he believes, is trying to find oneself within a marital structure when the youngsters haven’t yet had the opportunity to grow up.
“Part of the difficulty in maintaining and contributing to a marriage while at a young age is the fact that each person’s life course or vocation hasn’t been formed yet,” Direnfeld notes. Entering into a marriage when both parties are lacking essential life skills such as the inevitable stresses of running a household on a finite budget, mortgage payments and interest rates and, of course, the introduction of children can result in added stress, not to mention a greater reliance (emotionally and financially) on parents and family for support, he says. These young married couples haven’t established their careers and therefore don’t have the financial stability that older couples may have. As money has often been cited as one of the main reasons that couples fight, separate and divorce, being financially secure is something that any couple considering marriage should take to heart.
According to Direnfeld, those aged 25 to 35 have the most successful marriages. The reason? They’re old enough to have made gains in their careers and personal goals, but young enough that they are not too set in their ways.
For Dyk and his fiancée, age is irrelevant. They’re in love and they’re getting married—soon. “We have friends who are married already, and they’ve been supplying us with all their wedding magazines and wedding ideas,” he says.
“Let the planning begin!”
While many young couples, like Dyk and his fiancée, might be raring to move full speed ahead, what can parents do if they don’t approve? Not much, says Direnfeld.
SAVE YOUR OBJECTIONS
Although you may see their wedding photo as a doomed painting on the wall, Direnfeld says out-right objecting to the marriage will do more harm than good.
Instead, he suggests asking questions in lieu of expressing your opinion.
“Rather than stating your concerns directly, ask questions such as, ‘How have you prepared for…’ or ‘What are your plans for…’” he says. “Your questions are to get them thinking about what may be involved from a view of curiosity and not judgment.”
And even if they don’t come up with the answers you’d like and decide to walk down the aisle anyway, the best thing you can do is walk along beside them.
“Support is often the better choice,” says Direnfeld. “That way, your child and their spouse see you as neutral and hopefully approachable, should the need arise. Remember, in the end, you want a good relationship to not only be available to provide support, but to also enjoy the grandchildren, should they have kids.”
*Not her real name