Hark back to what the Baby Boomers like to romanticize as the ‘good old days’, and you’ll find that getting married by the time you were 24 was par for the course. Flash forward to the present, and not only is our generation generally less interested in marriage – honestly, who wants to bankrupt themselves for a one-day shindig? – but we’re doing it later in life too.
According to the most recent estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average age of first marriage for women in 2017 was 27.4 years. For men, it’s slightly older at 29.5 years, up from 23 for women and 26 for men in 1990 and 20 and 22 in 1960.
Despite the stats bending in our favor, however, it’s undeniable that a pressure to settle down still rears its head right around the time you’re just getting into the swing of your mid-20s.
Whether it comes from watching your friends bow to the beast and play proposal tag, or routine questioning from your parents, grandparents or barely-related aunts, the pressure to tick that ‘just married’ box off the supposed life goal list can seep in from all quarters.
But since a record level of marriages currently end in divorce – 42% if you’re looking to drop that stat the next time you face a grilling – it would seem marriage in 2018 really isn’t something to rush into.
Most people start to get an idea of who they really are and what is important to them some time after 25
The anecdotal evidence, of course, all suggests pacing yourself through life and putting off marriage until a) you know yourself a little better, b) you understand what qualities in a partner really make you happy, and c) you can actually afford to stage a wedding without spending the rest of your days living the life of a pauper (they don’t come cheap, even if you do it low-key). But it’s not just crowdsourcing over pints and peanuts that backs up the theory; relationship experts are of the same mind too.
“From a psychological, if not a physical, point of view, for many of us adolescence now extends well into the 20s. Although more people are better educated than ever before, a lot of us remain quite emotionally immature until we reach our late 20s and early 30s, when we may be in a better place, psychologically speaking, to settle down,” says Dr. Becky Spelman, a Psychologist and Cognitive Behavioral Therapist at the Private Therapy Clinic in London.
Dr. Sheri Jacobson, clinical director of Harley Therapy, the UK’s leading online platform for counseling and psychotherapy, agrees: “It is absolutely easier to find a relationship that will last if you know yourself better. In general, most people start to get an idea of who they really are and what is important to them some time after 25. That said, a good partnership is less about age and more about doing things for the right reasons.”
So on that note, straight from the mouths of psychologists, dating gurus and couples’ counselors, here are seven reasons why it may be beneficial to leave marriage out of the equation until you’ve at least hit the big 3-0.
You’ll Know What You Want
The idea that with age comes wisdom is a strong proponent for delaying church bells until you’re a more seasoned version of yourself.
By the time we hit 30 we tend to have a better sense of self… plus a more rounded idea of what we’re looking for in a relationship
As Peter Saddington, a relationships counselor at Relate, a branch of counseling and workshop centers around the UK, explains, by the time we hit 30 we tend to have a better sense of self, a clearer understanding of our own sexuality and needs in that department, plus a more rounded idea of what we’re looking for in a relationship.
“If you are more self-aware you’re able to better understand and express your own needs and wants, as well as understand how others might be different but still have equal needs and wants of their own,” he says.
“As a result, you’ll likely be better placed in your 30s to take those differences into account when finding a compatible partner. You may also have more confidence generally, for example if you’ve acquired life skills and achieved success in your career.”
You’ll Have Your Key Values Laid Out
Most of us could probably admit to at least a few strong opinions loosely held, especially through our early 20s. But as it turns out, knowing where you really stand on the bigger things in life, from politics and career ambitions, to where you want to live and whether or not you want kids, well that’s a lot like good whisky; best when aged.
Most people don’t discover their own values until they are well into their 20s and finally independent
As Dr. Jacobson explains, allowing yourself time to fully realize and understand your key values could be the key to skipping a bill from the divorce lawyer.
“Relationships last not because we like the same music or work for the same company, but because deep down we share the same personal values,” she says. “Part of growing up is discovering what our own values are outside of what our parents and social groups believe. Nowadays, most people don’t discover their own values until they are well into their 20s and finally independent.
“So if you get married before you, or your partner, has a clear idea of what’s important, this can understandably cause real problems further down the line.”
The Numbers Are On Your Side
Statistically speaking, your marriage is less likely to end in divorce if you put off tying the knot until your early 30s. According to a study by sociological researcher Nicholas Wolfinger, published by the Institute of Family Studies, divorce rates are found to be much higher among those who get wed before the 25-mark – in fact, those who get married at 25 are 50% less likely to get divorced than those who put a ring on it at 20 – with the sweet spot for a happy marriage being between the ages of 28 and 32.
Before you get too excited, however, note that Wolfinger’s research has been dubbed the ‘Goldilocks theory’ for a reason. That being that he also found divorce rates start to climb among those who get married in their late 30s.
So just like fictitious porridge, there appears to be a statistical age for marriage that’s ‘just right’.
You’ll Be Better At It
No, not the NSFW kind of ‘it’, although that probably does apply too. We mean you’ll likely be better at maintaining and participating in healthy relationships in general. Saddington puts a lot of that down to social skills learnt on the day job.
By the time we’re in our 30s we tend to have better communication skills, and be better at navigating conflict
“The longer you’ve been working the more likely you’ll have learnt about differences in others and have developed tolerance,” he says. “The workplace is very good at teaching tolerance, as it’s key to remaining professional.”
Dr. Jacobson agrees, noting: “By the time we’re in our 30s we tend to have better communication skills, and be better at navigating conflict, even if just from things like experiences in the workplace, where we have to learn to get along with others.
“If you struggle with relationships, however, or if you’re in a relationship and aren’t sure if it’s a good idea to get married or not, don’t overlook seeing a therapist.
“Pre-marital therapy has actually become more popular in the last few years. It creates a safe space for you both to communicate your concerns, helps you realize if you have the same values, and highlights what you’d need to work on for a marriage to be stable.”
You’ll Have More Financial Security
Well, at least you will in theory. Compared with getting hitched in your early 20s when you’re still trying to carve out your career path, are likely to be bringing home a smaller pay packet than your future self, and are yet to get even a little toe on the property ladder, your 30s should see you in a more stable position all-round. That in itself should buy you the potential for smoother sailing when it comes to married life.
After the Office For National Statistics revealed a 5% increase in divorce rates since 2016, a poll by legal firm Slater and Gordon found that over a third of separating couples blame money worries and financial strains for their split.
“Money is always a common issue and if one person feels that their partner is not pulling their weight financially or at least trying to then it can very quickly cause resentment to grow,” explains family (read: divorce) lawyer, Lorraine Harvey. Better get building that nest egg.
You’ll Get It Out Of Your System
Let’s face it, once you’ve crossed into 30-something territory, the sheer stamina that’s required to party hard all weekend and still rock up at the office bright-eyed on Monday morning does start to waver.
While that’s a bit of a knock to the ego, especially for the hedonists among us, it’s probably a plus for marital happiness. By your 30s, it’s likely you’ll have already had a taste of life’s adventures, sown a decent proportion of your wild oats, and outgrown those friendships based on little more than sharing rounds of Jaeger.
Getting married without having acquired a bit of a history can leave people feeling that they’ve missed out, and can contribute to infidelity later on
“Because society tells us (men more so than women) that we haven’t lived unless we’ve had a series of relationships and sexual experiences, getting married without having acquired a bit of a history can leave people feeling that they’ve missed out, and can contribute to infidelity later on, when the marriage hits a rough patch,” says Dr. Spelman.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Family Psychology backs this up, finding that of the men surveyed, those who got married after the age of 30 were less likely to report depressive symptoms in mid-life, partly due to having had more time to enjoy their ‘freedom’ before settling down.
You’ll Probably Have A Better Wedding
Arguably lower down on the priority list than guaranteeing yourself a lifetime of marital bliss, if you do wait until you’re a few rungs up the career ladder before planning a wedding, you’ll likely be able to do the whole thing in much more satisfying style.
Did you know the average wedding in the US currently costs close to $36,000?
As Shannon Smith, Dating Expert at Plenty of Fish, tells us: “In your 30s, you’ll likely have a bit of money already saved to pay for a wedding, which would ease the financial pressure in some ways and make for a more enjoyable day. Beyond that, the extra maturity may mean you’ll also feel far less pressure to create an impossibly perfect day, and be able to both enjoy yourselves a little more.”
And that extra money saved will work wonders once you realize the average wedding in the US currently costs close to $36,000. We’re thinking Casino-inspired reception?