Recently Nicole Kidman opened up about her first marriage to Tom Cruise. The couple wed in 1990 when Kidman was 23 years old then divorced in 2001. Kidman reflected on how marrying young did not work out for her. Pointing to Taylor Swift, Kidman noted, “She’s 26. I had two kids by the time I was 27 and I’d been married for 4 years.”
While admitting she wanted that life, Kidman looks at Swift’s success in the entertainment industry and sees what she has accomplished without a focus on building a family. Kidman’s marriage and subsequent divorce seem to be excused in her mind because of the young age at which she entered the marriage.
My husband proposed when he was twenty-one and I was twenty. We were both finishing college and I was working part-time as a nanny. I loved working for this family and was especially close to the mother of the home. I had no idea of the very serious conversation ahead of me when I shared news of my engagement with her. She approached me with her concern that I was engaged at such a young age. She knew about the divorce statistics that say 60% of those married between age 20 and 25 get divorced and I respected the loving way that she warned me about that risk. I appreciated her concern, and while it did make me stop and think twice, it did not change our wedding timeline.
Is it possible to marry young and stay together? Here are questions you need to consider before taking that step:
1. Am I willing to put my spouse’s needs before my own?
When you take two individuals, marry them, and put them in the same house with their different ideas, needs, and goals, disagreements are bound to arise. The key to surviving this is not accurate score keeping. No one likes to have “last time we did it your way” shoved in his or her face with an “it’s my turn now” sidekick. If both parties enter the new union determined to look for ways to put the other person first, these disagreements can turn into opportunities to show love to your spouse.
Right now my husband is graciously yielding many of his preferences as a pregnancy has drastically changed my ability to smell, cook, or even think about food or the dishes that need to be cleaned after we eat. I keep waiting for him to start getting impatient, but he just keeps serving. He is such an example to me of sacrificial service that it inspires me to look for new ways to serve him. That kind of a focus in a marriage puts our eyes on the Romans 12 list of how believers should treat others. This focus away from “self” has more to do with personal maturity than age.
2. What support network do we have?
At our wedding, the pastor reminded our 400 wedding guests of their role in our future. As witnesses to our union, they were also promising to help encourage my husband and me in our married lives. We both have family who wed in their early twenties, so we knew we also had a great network of family members who could help provide perspective and wise counsel as we figured out our new lives.
Having a group in place who will encourage you, especially in the early years, can be just what your relationship needs for longevity. Getting involved in your local church can also provide the accountability and support that you need.
3. How will we resolve conflicts?
While it is common to hear from happily married couples who say that their love grows greater each day, we can all honestly say that every marriage has its ups and downs. Even when the pair is committed to each other, the pressures of life (bills to pay, medical needs, parenting, jobs, etc.) will eventually create tension or miscommunications in the life of every marriage.
Couples need to consider this reality and have a plan for handling those tensions. Ignoring the challenges ahead will not make them go away. Talking openly about the challenges and how you will work through them sets you on the right path for reconciliation when the trials come, even if it’s hard to imagine through the rose-tinted lenses of engagement.
4. Are we willing to consider divorce as an option?
This is a huge question every couple should ask before marriage. Unrelenting stubbornness is a family trait my husband and I both inherited honestly, but when it comes to leaving divorce off the table of solutions for marital disharmony, I am so thankful for this characteristic. We have seen in the lives of friends and family the glory that God gets when a husband or wife stands by his or her spouse, even when conventional wisdom says to leave. Divorce is not a threat that will ever be uttered in our home because it is not an option for our relationship. This resolve forces us to work through arguments. It forces us to take seriously God’s command not to let the sun go down on our anger.
Having biblical answers to these four questions can help couples face their decision to marry young and to do so with confidence. There can be success in marriage with a commitment to God’s standards and follow-through on His instructions.