In a recent Ami magazine, an ad was placed and signed by eighty-nine Rabbanim of the greater Jewish community promoting the idea of bochurim getting married at a younger age.
Seeing this ad excited me, since this is a point of view with which I have always wholeheartedly agreed. I am hoping that it will help bring about change in our community.
After all, the Torah itself tells us that one should start looking for a shidduch “ben shmoneh esreh l’chupah,” which most commentaries explain as referring to the ages between 18 and 20.
I have spent many years counseling people of all ages – including couples and young people during the dating process. My point of view on this issue is that when it comes to marriage, we all want to have the odds stacked in our favor for experiencing the most fulfilling, wonderful and enduring relationship possible.
I believe that a simple way to get a head start toward achieving this goal is to try to get married at a younger age. Younger people are by nature more flexible. It is easier when you are younger to adapt to living with someone else, to compromise and to make someone else your priority. When I coach people who are dating, I often notice that once girls and boys are older and more settled, the process only becomes more complex.
Another issue I have encountered is that once girls in our community earn degrees and have established jobs, they often are no longer open to the typical 23-year-old bochur who only has smicha to offer. If, on the other hand, the couple sets out on their life together, one spouse’s education or job can be celebrated and enjoyed as a joint accomplishment. This offers a new couple the opportunity to discover life together, strengthening their bond and relationship early on.
Often, when I am counseling a boy or girl who says that they are not ready for marriage, I challenge them and ask, “What are you going to be doing for the next year or two that will qualify you as ‘ready for marriage’?”
The answer is not that before marriage, they plan on taking courses on marriage or relationships so that they are more capable of being a better partner.
More often than not, the answer is that before they get married, they’d like to travel and have interesting experiences with friends. I counter that with, “How much more meaningful would those travels and experiences be if you shared them with your life partner rather than with your friends?”
In 1990, a Newsweek article estimated the US divorce rate at the time at 50% of marriages and predicted that the percentage would rise to 67%. Interestingly, the soaring divorce rate has also been directly paralleled with the higher average age of marriage. In other words, according to those studies, the older the average age for marriage, the higher the divorce rate.
So, if you are a girl of 19 or a boy of 21, why miss out on sharing the best time of your life with your better half? Why not get a wonderful head start on the rest of your life?