Amongst my chevrah of high school friends, there are some who married right away, at 19 or 20, and some who got married a bit later, at 22 or 23. I have noticed an interesting pattern: The ones who married later seem to be more happily married and have made better choices. In fact, one of my friends told me this herself. She claims that the extra few years after seminary gave her time to know herself and what she wants, and she feels that she is better off because of this. Is this something that you find to be true across the board?
To begin with, blanket statements about most matters are erroneous. It would be impossible to say, with any degree of certainty, that getting married at any one particular stage of life would be more or less likely to lead to a happier and more successful marriage.
In speaking the matter over with a prominent and successful shadchan, who has been redding shidduchim for decades, I was told that she has not personally found any direct link between what age a single gets married, and how happy or successful their marriages are, in the years to come.
Human beings are the most complex of Hashem’s creations. Each person, and each situation, must be judged on its own. Let us then examine a few of the considerations that might factor into deciding when would be the “best” age to get married.
The very first considerations are whether or not a single is mature enough, and whether or not they have a clear enough picture of what they want or need in a spouse. Some singles, from an earlier age, are both mature enough, and clear enough about what they want in a spouse (or are flexible enough), to be able to make a decision about who they will marry. Other singles of the same age, are either not mature enough for marriage, or, while they may be mature enough, they have not yet figured out what they want or need in a spouse, to complement who they are.
Even assuming that a single has a clear enough idea of who they are and what they want in a spouse, that does not mean they have necessarily reached the point in life where marriage would be optimal. On the one hand, when a couple gets married very young, they have the opportunity to truly grow up and develop, together. They are able to experience the ebbs and flows of early life, together, and are able to share important life milestones and experiences with one another, from the start. This can prove to be a significant advantage when building a happy home and when difficulty arises in a marriage. Some singles are able to develop in their formative years, while living with someone else who is doing the same; and developing together in this way, can potentially be a beautiful way to start a marriage.
On the other hand, not everybody is of the constitution that they can develop as a person, from such an early age, together with someone else. It is something they first need to do on their own, before they are ready to enter the stage of life where they will be living with a spouse. Some singles need to concretize who they are, a little bit more, before they are ready for married life.
As a very small example, going through college, and especially graduate school, can be a taxing and time-consuming period of a person’s life. For some, having the companionship and support of a spouse, to help them through this task, is a tremendous benefit. Others, however, may need solitude and personal space to accomplish their goal.
Another important consideration is the financial aspect of life. When a couple gets married at a slightly older age, they may be in a position where they have attained a degree, or are further along in their career, and are already working in a profession which is bringing in a healthy income. Being in such a situation can greatly improve the economic aspects of a couple’s life, an area which can be one of the most stressful parts of married life, especially when a family is just getting on their feet. And yet, many younger couples are either receiving enough support when they first get married to tide them over until they are able to meet their financial needs on their own, or they are able to have shalom bayis while they live on a small enough budget to get by, until such time as they are earning a more significant income.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, regardless of what age might be the most advantageous time to get married, this is not really a choice that any one person gets to make, and therefore, it may be a moot point entirely. A single may decide that they want to get married at 19, and may put in all the hishtadlus in the world, and still might not get married for any number of years. A single may have no intention of dating at an early age, and then, all of a sudden, a shidduch idea may be presented that piques their curiosity, and before they know it, they are married – years earlier than they would have expected or planned.
Would anyone say that either of these singles are now more or less likely to have a happy marriage because they got married at a different age than they might have hoped or intended to? Could we say that the single in the first case is now less likely to have a happy marriage because, despite her best efforts, she got married when she was older than the “optimal age”? Could we say that the single in the second case should have passed up her golden opportunity because it is “better” to get married at 24 than 19?
Each single must decide for themselves, with the help of their parents, Rabbeim and teachers, at what point they are ready for shidduchim. Once that time comes, there is little reason, if any, for them to delay. At that time, they must put in their correct and proper hishtadlus, and trust that Hashem will bring them their zivug at the right time. It is not a matter of reaching any set age, it is a matter of readiness and self-reflection, along with davening, emunah and bitachon.