I married early -22 going on 23 and by my 25th birthday I was the proud mother of a baby girl just like my mother was some 25 years ago. My daughter clocks 25 in some few months, however, there is no likelihood she will continue the unconscious tradition of marrying early and having a first child at 25 as she is not even dating anyone now (at least that’s what she tells me).
Although I married quite early, I wasn’t the only one in my circle that got hitched at a young age. Quite a number of my friends got married either a year or two before or after me and most of them were between the ages of 23-25 for the ladies and 27- 30 for the men. We mostly got married after school and service year and for most of us especially those that married their college sweethearts the reason was simple, we had met the people we loved and we were not letting go of them and in addition, especially for those of us who were more religious and born again, there was the added motivation of having sex as we were often admonished that it was better to marry than to burn ( in hell fire).
A lot of us started life with nothing else but the clothes on our backs and a mattress on the floor, some even started it out in their parent’s houses but we loved and believed in each other and slowly began to see our dreams materialize. But it’s not so with our children, increasingly, we see them getting married later and later, if they even get married at all. Like most parents of adult children, I have wondered at to what is responsible for their lack of eagerness to marry and after speaking to my children and some young adults, I understand better their reasons for not hurrying into marriage.
- The advent of feminism and financial independence for most women has made them more eager to carve out a name for themselves and find their own path in life. For many, early marriage is an impediment which will slow them down when they are trying to build a career and they will rather focus on their careers in the meantime in the hopes that men who are sapio-sexuality and value independence in a woman will be attracted to them. For the men, the ladies are either too independent for them or too eager to marry without bringing much apart from their bodies to the table. Financially- most ladies are better able to afford the nicer things in life for and by themselves and do not see the need to go into marriage so a man can take care of their needs. Today’s girls pay their bills and are accustomed to taking good care of themselves. Unfortunately, because more emphasis has been laid on empowering girls there are not enough men who are financially empowered in the way ladies are, to go round and the few that are, either feel intimidated by the women in their social circles or play around.
- Our children do not have staying power. They are the generation that are used to jumping from one interest to another, they cannot engage for long and are easily distracted. They wonder at how couples stay in long relationships without getting bored and as evidenced in their career paths, they are not keen on committing to an employer for a long period of time, they are wont to switch partners as easily as they switch jobs.
- They figure that since marriage is supposed to be forever they owed themselves the right, privilege and discretion to sow their wild oats, know themselves better, experience the world and follow their fantasies before settling down and having to consider the impact of their lives, desires, decisions and passions on someone else.
- Marriage is not sacred to them and they are open to experimenting and having several experiences such as open relationships, polyamory, polyandry, gay partners, swinging clubs which are an anathema to their parents.
- They are disillusioned by their parent’s marriages and have vowed not to repeat it in their lives or remain single. They lay some of their fears at our feet, blaming us for scarring them either by acrimonious divorces or by our decisions to stay in an abusive relationship ostensibly for their sake.
- They are living together “in sin” and since they seem to enjoy all the benefits of marriage without the paper they are not in a hurry to tie the legal knots.
- They are more practical and realistic about life and the challenges facing marriages than our generation who had their heads in the clouds, were blinded by love and believed that marriage will make or complete us. Also, they are fearful about the stories they hear about marriage and divorce and feel that there is a scarcity of good spouses of either gender. This is reinforced by the terrible stories of failed marriages on social media and the dearth of good role models in marriage.
- Weddings are expensive in our part of the world and the expectations that come with marriage can be burdensome for young couples who are just trying to find their feet. Also is the knowledge that children are an inevitable consequence of marriage and that it is quite expensive to train and nurture them.
The list went on but I was too bewildered to follow them and though I tried to interject severally about how Marriage was honorable in itself, could be more economical in that they could save on rent, taxes etc, that good and responsible people like them abound, that commitment is good and helps to make us more responsible and disciplined, I could understand the reasons for their cold feet and also the rationale that because they cared about the quality of their marriages and were not going to get married for the fun of it or to please their parents and society , they were taking time to become the best persons they could be both emotionally, socially and financially so they could bring their best to the marriage.
Looking back at myself, I wish I had waited a bit before marrying as I am convinced that women don’t know themselves until they are in their 30s; by the time I knew myself, I was safely married. However, as I did tell them, in some areas, especially with raising children, I am glad I married early. I am in my very late 40s and already have adult children and will not spend my old age paying school fees and dealing with teenage stress.
So to all parents out there, stressing over the fact that your adult children do not seem interested in marrying early, I leave you with the words of Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins, “Marriage used to be the first step into adulthood. Now it is often the last, and it is what you do when you have your personal life in order”. Marrying late does have its advantages and disadvantages like all things in life.