Transcript: Wed., June 16 at 11 a.m. ET
On Love: How young is "too young" for marriage
Wednesday, June 16, 2010; 11:00 AM
Getting a ring is the last thing you should be thinking about in your 20s. Authors Shannon Fox and Celeste Liversidge discuss just how young is "too young" for marriage and their book "Last One Down the Aisle Wins."
Fox has appeared as a relationship expert on several nationally sydicated programs, such as Bravo's "Millionaire Matchmaker," "The Tyra Banks Show," NBC's "Today" show and "Inside Edition." She is also a licensed marriage and family psychotherapist.
Liversidge is an attorney, who specializes in family law. She is also an adjunct professor at Pepperdine University's School of Law, a frequent lecturer on topics ranging from divorce to politics, and serves as a mentor to young women entering the legal profession.
To learn more about the authors and their book, visit lastonedowntheaislewins.com.
For more tips, marital and relationship advice and to see how other couples have gotten to the altar, visit our OnLove section.
The transcript follows.
Shannon Fox and Celeste Liversidge: Welcome, All! Looking forward to answering your questions and we hope to be helpful.
Reston, VA: I definitely see your point on being too young for marriage in your early-mid 20's, but if women really want to have children, I don't think it's a good idea to wait until they are in their early 30's to get married. It seems like most of the women I know in DC have had to go through some form of fertility treatment because we get married and have kids at an older age. Most women don't have the money for such treatments and don't take seriously how much harder it could be to have kids in their 30's. I don't think you want people to get married and immediately have kids (which seems like a bad idea, you should enjoy your marriage for a while. If you meet someone that you want to spend the rest of your life with in your 20's and you want to have kids, get going. You'll thank yourself when your 40+ year old friends and colleagues are struggling to have kids and spending 10s of thousands of dollars on in vitro.
Shannon Fox: We get many, many questions about this issue. And, of course, this issue was definitely on our radar during our single twentysomething years. But here are a few things to consider: First, the facts. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 78% of women between the ages of 35-39 were able to conceive successfully within one year, without medical intervention. Also, we would encourage you to take your timeline off the table for a bit. Sure, there are some good things about being young when you have kids, but on balance, better to wait and marry the right person (and be the right person), than raise kids in single-parent households. We've both found, personally, that being a bit on the older-ish side (32-36) when having kids has helped us be better, more patient, more fulfilled mommies.
Suburbs, VA: I've been dating my boyfriend since we were 17 (we are 23 now). We went to college apart, have grown as our own people, and still have a great relationship that we know will result in marriage some day. While neither of us are in a rush to get married yet, it seems sort of silly to just wait until we are an arbitrary age (say, 27) before tying the knot, when we are already with the person we'll marry. Do you see exceptions in this case?
Shannon Fox and Celeste Liversidge: First, there's nothing arbitrary about our recommendation to wait until your late twenties to marry. According the NCHS, your chances of staying married more than double if you wait until at least 25 to get hitched (and we know you want to stay married, right?!) We take it a step further, not to impose some sort of artificial timeline, but because we know that it takes a woman most of her twenties to develop in the ten key areas of her life that are crucial to her having not only a long-lasting marriage, but a happy one. Yes, it is silly "just to wait", but it is very wise to be purposeful about how you spend your single years.
Washington, DC: What's your opinion regarding living together in your twenties? Is that also something to be avoided, ie, will having an all-but-name marriage interfere with the goals you outline in your book? If I live together with someone and then move out and marry someone else later, is is any better than marrying early, divorcing, and then marrying later?
Shannon Fox and Celeste Liversidge: First, a statistic for you: According to the National Marriage Project, you are 47% more likely to end up divorced if you live with someone before you marry them. Pretty chilling, right? And, you are right on the money when you ask whether living together interferes with the goals we outline. When you live with a guy, a big part of your identity and focus inevitably becomes about him, much moreso than if you're just in a dating relationship. The purpose of your twenties is to become the best complete person you can be, not the best half of a couple (that's what marriage is about).
Los Angeles, CA: I'm 22 years old and have, literally, 4 weddings to go to this summer. To add to it, I'm from a family where the women, traditionally, get married young -- i.e., 24 is officially old maid status. I don't even have a boyfriend right now! All the weddings plus the constant family pressure is making me feel like I need to find someone right away. How can I best deal with the pressure that I know will come up when the four brides are tossing their bouquet? Is there REALLY an age that's too young for marriage? Thanks!
Shannon Fox and Celeste Liversidge: You've definitely hit a popular nerve with your question. In fact, so many women are dealing with this pressure, that we've coined a phrase, "Aisle Envy" to describe it. Yes, the pressure is real, but no, you don't have to give into it. This can be an amazing time in your life, if you make it so. Instead of trying to catch the bouquet, it's time to catch a new vision for your all that your twenties can be.
Stuck as a Girlfriend?: I'm 32, and in a dating relationship. I'm generally happy with the status quo, but I sometimes worry that I will forever be a girlfriend and not a wife. Do you find that when people put off marriage, they become more "set in their ways" and therefore less willing to make the compromises it would take to be in a successful marriage?
Shannon Fox and Celeste Liversidge: We've actually found that as people get a little older they are more accepting of other's differences in the big areas of life. Sure, you may be more set in your ways about how you load the dishwasher or whether you prefer cabernet or pinot grigio, but generally as we become more comfortable in our own skin, we're less threatened by other's differences.
Arlington, VA: I know it was a different era, but my parents got married at 18 for my mom and 22 for my dad (after dating for four years). Last October, they celebrated their 66th anniversary. They've been a couple for over 70 years now.
Shannon Fox and Celeste Liversidge: Congrats to your parents! 66 years is huge! We really are living in a different era than 70 years ago. As the New York Times recently observed, we're living in a time of delayed and prolonged adolescence. Young people are staying in school longer, living at home longer and achieving true independence much later in life. We strongly believe that these days, you need to be able to stand on your own two feet (financially, physically and emotionally) before you're able to make a good choice in a partner or be a good partner. The best marriages are between two grown ups.
According the NCHS, your chances of staying married more than double if you wait until at least 25 to get hitched : The idea that you should wait until you turn 25 to get married is implying causation when there is just correlation. Folks who get married before 25 are more likely to be poorer and less educated, which is correlated with higher divorce rates. It's not like you magically become a better person for marriage when you hit 25.
Shannon Fox and Celeste Liversidge: We absolutely agree that there is nothing magic about turning 25. It takes a lot of hard work, but it's so worth it. Through our research we've been able to identify ten key areas of a woman's life that she needs to develop in order to have the best shot at a happy and successful marriage. As a divorce attorney and a marriage and family therapist, we've drawn from hundreds of relationships and the reasons for their success and demise. You are definitely right--we've found that it takes most of a woman's twenties to get where she needs to be in these areas. For some, it takes longer.
Be Independent first!: I'm a middle-aged woman and I agree wholeheartedly that young people need to become full-fledged adults before they settle down. I had a ton of fun in my 20's: climbing mountains, riding a motorcycle across New England, scuba diving, etc. I also finished college and settled into a career. I had to give up a lot when I had my first kid at age 28, but I was SO glad I had done all these things.
Shannon Fox and Celeste Liversidge: What an adventurous life you've had already! We think that adventure during your single years is so important that we dedicated a whole chapter to it. Isn't it great to have those experiences to draw from as you raise your children. Here's to having no regrets!
Ashburn, VA: I am in my mid-twenties and surrounded by friends who are married or engaged. I feel like I have been purposeful about my 20s thus far (Masters by 23, lots of good friends, good job, involved in my church, becoming financially strong) and am actively interested in finding my future spouse.
I keep wanting to disagree with you as a knee-jerk reaction because I don't think there is a "magic age" when someone is suddenly ready to get married and live happily ever after with no threat of divorce, which is what my best friend seems to believe (we argue about this). I don't believe that just because someone is getting married in her 20s means she is doomed to a miserable marriage/divorce. But from your answers so far, and from reading your website, I don't think that's what you're saying. I applaud you for encouraging women and trying to balance out some of the pressure to get married from family/friends/society. I think waiting to get married until you are complete on your own, with a man or without, but not delaying just to delay, is the optimal choice.
Shannon Fox and Celeste Liversidge: Good for you! Thanks for considering how our message. You're right, we are not saying that women who get married before 25 are destined to end up in divorce court. We are huge proponents of happy, successful marriages and would thrilled to keep people from ending up in either one of our offices. Marriage is a tough gig and we want to empower people to go in to it well-equipped.
Portland, OR: Although I don't fully understand your whole concept until I buy your book (later on today...during my lunch hour), I see that so many of my girlfriends want "the wedding" seemingly more than "the marriage". That's an easy trap to fall into when you get to register for all your coveted stuff, wear the dress of your dreams, and make fun plans for a shared future. In your practices, do you find that some girls are actually motivated by "the wedding" more than "the marriage"?
Shannon Fox and Celeste Liversidge: You've just identified one of our 10 wrong reasons women marry too young: Always a Bridesmaid. For many women the focus can easily become the party and the guy and the marriage becomes secondary. We love a great party as much as the next girl, but what a recipe for disaster! We'd love to get your feedback after you've had a chance to read the book. Don't forget to grab a sandwich at the bookstore!
Frankfort, KY: My 23 yr old nephew and his 23 yr old recently graduated but unemployed girlfriend are getting married in Sept. Is there anything I can say to them at this point for them to see that this in all probability could be a train wreck? Having gone through divorce after an 18 yr marriage, I hate for a loved one to make a mistake but you know how kids are.
Shannon Fox and Celeste Liversidge: Sounds like you know first-hand how painful divorce is. How about a gentle reminder to them about the importance of finances. There is nothing that puts more stress on a young marriage than on=going arguments about money. Why not take a few years to pursue a career, discover their passions, and build the confidence that they've got what it takes to stand on their own two feet. Marriage can wait. Divorce sucks.
Shannon Fox and Celeste Liversidge: Thanks for all your incredible questions. We invite you to check in with us on our website: www.loveyourtwenties.com. Have a great day!
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