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The best and worst ages to get married (it's not what you think)

Posted October 31

Anyone who has considered marrying young has probably been cautioned to think twice, whereas those who find love later in life are always assumed to be old enough and wise enough to make the right decision. So is there really a perfect age to get married? And if so, what is it?

There’s a reason people are cautious about encouraging young marriage. Statistics have long shown that teen marriage does make you more vulnerable to divorce, and figures from The National Survey of Family Growth suggest that as recently as 1995 there was a steady one-way trend, showing the older you were when you married, the less likely you were to divorce.

Times are changing, though, and trends are changing with them. More recent figures show that while there is a decline in the divorce rate for those couples who wait until their late twenties to get married, the rate of divorce seems to start climbing again for those who marry in their thirties. What’s more, it just keeps climbing; meaning couples who marry in their forties are even more likely to divorce.

This article from The Institute of Family Studies, charts the trends, and suggests that once you reach around 32, the odds of divorce increase by around 5% for each year you delay marriage. This indicates that those that marry in their mid-forties are no more likely to have a successful marriage than those who marry in their teens.

There is, of course, no single predictor of divorce and lots of things matter more than age. It’s also fair to speculate that some things connected with later marriage may predispose more mature couples to a short-lived marriage.

There is evidence, for example, that having multiple sexual partners before marriage increases the odds of a divorce. If someone is marrying in their thirties or forties, unless they have purposely practiced celibacy, it makes sense to assume they have had more partners than someone in their twenties.

Studies also show that you are more likely to divorce if you are childless, and there is some evidence that failed fertility treatment can also be a risk factor in divorce. Couples marrying later in life, especially in their forties, are less likely to have children and more likely to experience unsuccessful fertility treatment.

You could also speculate that delaying marriage simply gives you too much time to get used to being single. As people become more set in their ways, more independent, and more accustomed to doing their own thing, the compromises and interdependence of marriage may not suit them as well as if they’d married at a younger age.

It’s also reasonable to suggest that strong, successful marriages involve building a set of shared memories and experiences, and couples who meet later in life just don’t have as much time to do this.

So is there a perfect age to marry? And what sort of advice should we be giving young couples?

If you’re against marrying too young, it’s worth noting that while teen marriages are more likely than most to end in divorce, delaying marriage by just a few years can change the odds significantly.

The Family Studies research indicated that delaying marriage from the teens to the early twenties actually produced the largest decline in divorce risk. And if the next wedding season brings you one invite to a teen wedding, and another to the wedding of a couple in their forties, be aware that they have a roughly equal chance of hitting the divorce courts at some point in the future.

Statistically, it seems that your late twenties are the sweet spot and certainly before thirty-two. Ultimately, though, it’s worth remembering that statistics are just that. There are many things that go into making a marriage successful, so at any age, maybe the most helpful thing to do for newlywed couples is to offer congratulations and support.

Karen Banes is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, lifestyle and entrepreneurship. Contact her at her website http://www.karenbanes.com/.or via Twitter where she tweets as @KarenBanes.

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