Marrying young: a new countercultural movement?

Dom Bettinelli's blog post about an article by the Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Shmuley Boteach titled Too Young to Marry? has generated a lively discussion. Dom's follow-up post refers to an article by Orthodox Christian Frederica Mathewes-Green; Let's Have More Teen Pregnancy.

Mathewes-Green points out that the concept of marrying in one's late teens or early twenties is viewed with horror by modern liberals and conservatives alike. Why is this? A mere fifty years ago, the average first-time bride was just over twenty. Now many postpone marriage and especially childbearing into their late thirties.

As with every other attempt by prideful man to outsmart the nature that God gave us, the consequences of delaying marriage are now all too visible in our society.  With no social pressure to grow up, adolescence now extends into the twenties and early thirties.  Those who finally decide to settle down find that they're not as suited for the challenges of marriage and parenting as they would have been when they were younger. 

The tide appears to be turning, especially among the children of the "Pope John Paul II generation", whose parents rejected contraception and the "2.2 child family", and embraced the openness to life taught by the late philosopher-pope. These kids, often homeschooled and raised to believe that marriage is a sacrament and children are a blessing, are now becoming young adults, and see no reason to put off starting families of their own.


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  • Guest

    Hallelujah and Praise the Lord! I have been spouting this “heresy” for quite some time and have been treated as a nutcase at best.
    It is now accepted as so obvious as to be akin to the sun being yellow that the world is about to be so over populated it is about to have people standing on top of one another. Along with that bit of “wisdom” the decision to have a child is worried over and debated to the point of nausea. I have even been told by otherwise intelligent people that there should a license required to prove one has the money and brains to raise a child. These people are dead serious! While I do believe children deserve and have the right to be treated as the precious gift from God they are, can you imagine the federal bureaucracy that would create?! I shudder at the mere thought.
    I heartily agree life would be greatly enriched if people went back to marrying young and having children (note the plural). I believe the rise in fertility problems is a direct result of women poisoning their bodies with birth control devices. As an old commercial so aptly stated, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature!” There is definitely a price to be paid for trying to usurp God’s plan for the human race.
    Postponing marriage in a search for one’s “self fulfillment” is a fool’s errand. Claiming to not marry for fear of divorce is also ridiculous. It is not age or the lack thereof which causes divorce, but selfishness. I include in this selfishness the lack of kindness toward women in the form of abuse, and for women in the lack of respect of a man’s rightful role as the head of the household. If I sound like a throwback to a time when women were considered chattel, it is because my argument is not considered thoughtfully. I most assuredly do not advocate a man behaving like a tin-horn dictator, but one who should look to God as his role model, and bear his responsibility with grace and humility, respecting the gift of a wife and children, not to be treated as his own fiefdom.
    Too much misery has been engendered by this society’s quest for personal autonomy. Children are being taught in the public schools at an early age that selfishness is a virtue. They are to think of themselves first and foremost, not as a part of a family or a society, but as a being owing no allegiance to anyone. I know because I was taught by this very system while it still retained a tiny bit of sanity, graduating high school in 1971. This means I was part of the much heralded “Baby Boom” generation, on deck for the “sexual revolution” and all the rest of what is now an embarrassing amount of foolishness which resulted in many ruined lives and personal disasters.
    Having spent a good many years in and out of therapy, I now realize I was looking in all the wrong places and contributing to the insanity. My best work was done in the home. Trying to make a marriage “equal” was just plain stupid. I had my job, and my husband had his. We should have understood much earlier we were to compliment each other, not compete. While I thought I was raising our sons to be men who would marry and have children according to God’s ordinances, I was showing them something else. As a result, they have, as Frederica Mathewes-Green points out, stretched their adolescence into their late twenties, speeding toward their thirties, as unsure of their proper roles in life as when they were teenagers for real.
    So I applaud those brave and wise people who are raising their children as part of the “Pope John Paul II generation.” I hope and pray with all my heart that their children understand the truth of marriage as a sacrament and children as a blessing. May they marry young, have many babies, and grow up together instead of merely living in the same house. God bless them every one.

  • Guest

    I read this post with interest.

    It must be borne in mind that the age of consent in the US varies from State to State, being 14 in South Carolina, 17 in Louisiana and 18 in e.g. California.

    In Bob Walker’s Official New Orleans Area Wedding Guide it is noted:

    AGE – “Since the commitment of marriage requires a substantial degree of maturity,” explains Deacon Farinelli, “permission for marriage is rarely granted to anyone under the age of 18.”

    I would consider that getting married young may be unwise.

    God bless,

    In necessariis, unitas; in dubiis, libertas; in omnibus, caritas

  • Guest

    Only, NoelFitz, for an octogenarian gettin’ hitched to an eighteen-year-old . . .

    Unwise is getting married so stupidly; or in immaturity and concupiscence such as lust; or unaware of all that love and marriage and family means and entails – none of these are necessarily factored to age . . .

    At one time, we did not so coddle children that they did not eagerly pursue lessons among their elders that matured them early.

    Now, their elders are immature dolts so often, having been held back from developing and maturing by smothering coddling, no one around the children is an adult, however ‘grown-up’ they are. My late wife at twenty-five was wiser than you and I are now – wiser than but maybe one or two elders I have encountered. Her grasp at theology and her faith and devoutness was breathtakingly simple, direct, clear and complete. What was marvelous, I think she grew in wisdom in part by grasping at her innocence. She believed in Santa until she was thirteen because she also believed in God’s miracles; Santa Claus is a miracle, probably, still, to her in heaven. But, then, are not all real saints living miracles of God’s graces?

    However, she did not grasp at ‘staying a child’. Rather, she held on to child-like-ness even as she learned and read voraciously, eagerly, curiously, and developed and matured soundly and solidly.

    Some are never going to be ready for marriage. Some simply are called neither to marry nor to Religious or ordained life. However, all can benefit from marriage preparatory lessons from family, Church, community, etc., in formal and casual means, manners and methods. In fact, such lessons start as child watches parent love parent. One old Jesuit who counseled thousands of families over fifty years put it – ‘the best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother’. BTW, he offered no caution about age.

    I remain your obedient servant, but God’s first,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell or …

  • Guest

    As Catholic couple who married when we were 18 and 17 (and we were very ready to do so), I could not agree more with bhickey or wljewel. Thirty years later, we continue to grow in love. This is because we chose from the beginning to be “other focussed” in our marriage. Don’t get me wrong, we have had our challenges – but we worked through them together. To succeed at any age, one must have the love of Christ for their spouse. Marriage is a Sacrament for good reason.

    In the early years, while we were changing diapers as our contemporaries were partying, we had to patiently tolerate much muffled criticism. Our friends always seemed to equate the right time to marry with some personal economic goal (“when I can afford a house…”) or feeling of self fulfillment (“I would just like to achieve ___ before I settle down”). Now, I see these same people much later in life and “successful” by worldly standards, but grappling with the resonsibility of family as if it is a burden. Their problem is they never lost their first true love – self.

    We now sometimes find ouselves sought out as quasi-counselors for some of our worldly, but spiritually immature, friends and coworkers who just don’t understand how a marriage can be successful for so long. In each instance, without fail, we’ve found the root cause of the strife dejour to be the same thing… not finances or behavior which are symptoms of the problem – but gross self love. This is the modern paganism.

    Teaching authentic Catholic Christian ideals, most importantly charity, to our children and enforcing this teaching through good example, is our primary responsibility as adults (married or unmarried). We will not always be successful – afterall people have free willpower – but, by being true examples of our orthodox Catholic faith we will get through to our youth. If God is with us, who then is against us? Viva marriage!