I just celebrated my 18th wedding anniversary. I was 23 and my husband was 21 when we got married on a sunny day in October, 1991.A recent article in Chatelaine suggests if we were married today at that young age, our marriage would likely not last 18 years.
Author Kate Fillion reports in “The case for marrying late,” that Canadians are delaying marriage. Women first marry at age 28.5 and men first marry at age 30.6. The more educated you are, the later you get married and the better your chances of staying together.
Men and women are both avoiding marriage in favor of educational and career opportunities, often living at home with their baby boomer parents well into their twenties. They aren’t delaying relationships, or even co-habitation, just permanency: they’re commitment-phobes. Today’s average girl in her 20’s has become as self-centered and emotionally immature as we have historically blamed men to be, the article reports, so early marriages are doomed to failure. Fillion says, “Canadians who wait until at least their mid-thirties to marry have a 43-percent lower risk of getting divorced. And teens who marry are twice as likely to divorce as couples who marry in their late 20s.”
As I read through the article, I realized how my husband and I bucked these societal trends. I moved out of my parents’ home at 17, right after high school, and I never lived at home again. We are both graduates of technical school, not university.
But the trend to delay (or repeat) early marriage was certainly stirring in my eighties generation, and it was seeded by our parent’s generation. In the 1970’s, my husband’s parents were the first separated couple in his community, but it was just the beginning. Many of their neighbours stayed together until their children were grown. Once the kids left home, the marriage dissolved, too. I believe today’s young adults are bearing the final fruit of the “rights” movement. They’re just too interested in their own needs to ever think about anybody else.
We married early, but unlike the statistics Fillion cited, I’m glad to say we are happier now than at first. Why? Why have we lasted 18 years in a society of people who have a stronger relationship with the ice cream in their freezers than with each other?
I would like to tell you it’s because we’re both saintly, and live far above the dark impulses of the world, but that would be a big, fat lie (and you know where liars go.)
This is the short, unromantic answer: we both chose. Hard times either make you grow up or grow away. Happiness, maturity, wisdom and contentment aren’t foisted upon you by the hand of fate. They are the reward for surviving difficult seasons, including childrearing, sickness, financial stress, bad choices and lost intimacy, or just plain old stubbornness.
Sometimes your spouse sacrifices to put your needs first, sometimes it’s you. You take turns biting your lip, or giving in, because you know together you’re building something greater than you could build alone.
But here’s the sobering (and sad) thought: Perhaps this generation wouldn’t congratulate and admire us for beating the odds. Maybe they would say we settled for a boring and less-fulfilling existence. Maybe the boomers raised a disconnected and distracted generation of contractors who want to build their own house and live in it, all by themselves.