Is there a “right” age to get married?
By Carter Gaddis — Written on Apr 23, 2023
Photo: nadtochiy / Shutterstock
When you know … you know. Love transcends age and eras. Does all young love find a fairy tale finale? We’d ask Romeo and Juliet about that, but … well, you know how that turned out.
Still, “older” brides and grooms don’t have a monopoly on marital longevity. Marriage vows made at the age of 20 are as sacred and binding as those made after a few more years of mature contemplation.
Is there an ideal age for someone to tie the knot? Sure — it’s the age you are when you meet the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Sometimes the commitment fades with the fizzle of that initial burst of passion. Sometimes, it does, indeed, last ’til death do you part.
Every married person has a unique story to tell, but it’s always interesting to hear from professional counselors and therapists who have lived through experiences similar to their clients or patients.
For one thing, their lived experience helps to inform their perspective on romantic relationships. For another, it’s interesting to hear how they managed to navigate obstacles that just about every married couple faces at some time or another.
So, we reached out to a panel of YourTango experts, who revealed when they were first married, what happened with their partners after that, and the lessons they learned from the experience.
Here’s how old five relationship experts were when they married — and whether their relationship thrived or fizzled:
1. Celebrating our 38th anniversary — here’s how we’ve done it
When I marched up the aisle at 26, I didn’t know if I was ready. I just knew I didn’t want to live with anyone other than my fiance. I had set about losing weight to fit in my mom’s wedding dress, then lost 10 more pounds the week of the wedding. I got no sleep the night before the big event. To say I was skittish is an understatement.
On April 27, 2023, my husband and I will have our 38th wedding anniversary. Nearly 40 wonderful years together.
We met in late 1982 and had our first date on New Year’s Eve 1983. We were inseparable, compatible emotionally and physically, and were both compassionate and active listeners. Yet I didn’t enjoy going to a ball game every single weekend, and he didn’t enjoy driving country backroads. Just one of many differences. What kept us together this long?
Mutual respectNon-judgmentThe unconditional love of foibles Sharing our hopes, dreams, and opinionsTaking turns with our upward career movesRiding through the tough times of growth, knowing there’d be another side, but all couples have rough spots.Time together and time apart (we’re both introverts who need freedom and space)Realizing early we wouldn’t be the same people at 60 as we were in our 20sAnd, always, always, an open dialogue. No secrets.
One last thing, perhaps unique to us. We had more than 10 years together before we had children. I feel the maturity we had for parenting wouldn’t have been there in our early 30s. And the arguments might have split us apart. But because we totally knew and loved each other, we saw the other person and not the conflicts.
– Kathryn Brown Ramsperger, relationship coach and author
2. Married at 19, divorced soon after — but I revere committed partnership all the more
I was 19 when I married my first wife. Yes, we were high school sweethearts full of dreams, delightfully infatuated with each other, and clueless about marriage. At 19 we saw ourselves as invisible and capable of any challenge. We were ill-prepared or trained, to say the least. And stubborn too, which is why the marriage lasted nearly five years.
Ultimately, we were not the best match for each other and we had much more to learn about life, partnerships, what we truly valued, and how we wished to contribute to the world. School, university education, and work-life experience paled compared to the lessons attainable in a marriage.
Divorced at 24, I was a much more capable human with a far greater reverence for partnership, and still, a ton more to learn and no reservations at all for my future education.
Yes, I married again and became a father with an entirely new set of relationship grad school experiences. Husbands and wives may become ex-husbands and wives, but children will always be your children and perhaps your greatest teachers, no matter what their age.
I am single now with a huge reverence for committed partnership and marriage. There is truly nothing more valuable than the emergent and ongoing gifts of a soulful bond between friends, lovers, and especially a life partner.
– Larry Michel, founder of the Institute of Genetic Energetics
3. Married at 23, we slowly grew apart
I was married to my first husband at the age of 23. We were married for 14 years and divorced in 2010. Short story, it wasn’t a very successful marriage by the standards of “together until death do us part.” However, it was successful in the sense that we supported each other through graduate school, and completed the societal script together of jobs, house, kids, etc.
We had a beautiful son, who is now 19 years old, and we raised him amicably even though we were divorced when he was very young. In retrospect, we were much too young to think we knew anything about what marriage would call for from us and we really didn’t know who we were yet. At least not enough to be able to foresee if our future selves would be compatible.
As we aged, we became less compatible, our values did not match up in the way we both had hoped, and we grew apart. I was also not as assertive in my communication and did not ask for what I wanted and needed and instead shut down and turned away from my husband. So although on the outside it looked as though we had a very “successful” relationship, the inside was missing many pieces and eventually it crumbled.
I am now married to my second husband. We got married when I was 46 and he was 48. We are coming up on our 4th anniversary. He was not the man that I would build a life with, I had already done that. He is the man I choose to share my life with.
Getting married later in life allowed us to come together with much more self-knowing and a more mature communication style that allowed for more honest and frank conversations going into our marriage. We had both learned from past relationships and that experience allowed us to be more selective in choosing a partner and even in the conscious decision to actually get married. We both were interested in a conscious relationship and made deep commitments to developing a marriage that was transparent, honest, cooperative, playful, creative, empowering, and balanced.
Although our life looks very simple from the outside, the inside runs very deep and creates a feeling of fulfillment and gratitude that I never thought possible.
Although I am so grateful to have my son, I feel marriage is best suited to be pursued later in life. Or, we need to be more honest with young people about what marriage will require of you emotionally and help folks to be better prepared for what it takes to sustain a marriage through the stages and phases of adulthood.
A couple must be able to grow together — not into one entity, but each partner is able to grow and evolve individually while also staying connected to each other. Marriage is not for the faint of heart, but it is for those who wish to experience how much their heart is capable of holding.
– Wendy Crane, licensed marriage and family therapist
4. Married at 21, we’ve made it work for many years through effort and compromise
I got married at the young age of 21 and now, after many years, my husband and I have a loving and successful partnership that has stood the test of time.
Together, we have experienced some of the most wonderful times of our lives. We have raised two beautiful children and built a life filled with love and laughter. Our journey together has not been without its challenges. Like all couples, we have gone through our fair share of rough patches.
The secret to our success lies in our ability to compromise and truly listen to one another. We have grown together over the years, and continue to work every day on making our marriage a success. I am a strong believer that marriage is not a 50/50 partnership, it is 100/100 kind. To have a successful marriage in my humble opinion, both partners need to give their 100%. Marriage is a constant work in progress, like a sculpture being carved for decades.
I may be a matchmaker, but my own marriage is a shining example of what can happen when two people are willing to put in the effort to make their relationship work.
– Ellen Scaduto, certified matchmaker, certified science-based relationship coach
5. Marriage at 25 and early blips taught me lessons for a new career path in counseling
My mother cautioned me to postpone marriage until I was 25, which I did, but I should have waited much longer because at 26 I didn’t understand the intricacies of picking the best partner. By 1998, having divorced my two husbands, I created The Marriage Forum Inc. to teach all the tools I had created during my own marriages. Through my work, I’ve often found that where my clients need the most guidance is with sexual intimacy, because that’s the one attribute you can’t farm out to a hired hand!
– Susan Allan, founder of the Marriage Forum Inc. and certified mediator
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Carter Gaddis is the senior editor for Experts & Wellness with YourTango.