Couple on grass

Falling in love may or may not happen in your teen years. College-age and older individuals often find themselves negotiating an increasingly more complicated landscape of dating and sexual relationships. Here’s where it really helps to have a compass!

There are many reasons why the average age at first marriage has risen dramatically over the last few decades. (More on this to come.) But whatever the reasons, it can leave you wondering “will it ever happen for me?”  Don’t despair! There are some good reasons to wait a while to marry:

  1. The pre-frontal cortex of the brain (responsible for thinking through options, making decisions, and problem-solving) is not fully developed until you are in your early twenties. In fact, marrying before age 20 is one of the highest risk factors for divorce.
  2. For many (most?) people, education at the college level or above is not completed until early or mid-twenties. Not only is it difficult to handle both studies and being newlyweds (and usually a job, too!), but you will have more options for employment and be better off financially after you complete your education.
  3. While it might be tempting to just move in with someone right now, and worry about the whole “marriage thing” later on, there is no scientific evidence that cohabitation in any way enhances marital satisfaction or longevity, and there is abundant evidence that it can have a very negative effect. So hang in there, and don’t make a move that you may regret later.
  4. It takes at least two years, according to the research, to really get to know someone you are dating. Up until that time, we tend to be on our “best behavior” with someone we like. Not that we are trying to deceive, but we just want the other person to think well of us. But after about two years, some of that rosy tint comes off the glasses and you begin to see things a little more realistically. So if you just met someone, take your time in getting to know each other. Our advice is to date for two or three years before you get engaged.
  5. Try to see your boyfriend/girlfriend in a variety of surroundings. That will help you avoid what is sometimes called an “incubator relationship.” That happens when two people fall in love in a particular environment (college, the military, at work) but have seldom or never seen each other outside of that venue. People sometimes behave very differently in different circumstances. Getting to know the whole person means spending time with him or her in various scenarios.

While you’re waiting, check out this book: How To Avoid Marrying A Jerk, by John Van Epp. It’s highly educational, and a fun read.