Fostering Marriage Readiness in a Culture of Marriage Preparation Paradoxes


How can we promote better marriage readiness among young people? For many, the answer to this question involves promoting three things: 1) encouraging the delay of marriage into the thirties or beyond; 2) endorsing the “sowing of wild oats” during the young adult years so that one is ready to settle down and get married later; and 3) insisting on cohabitation during courtship in order to properly test the relationship’s readiness for marriage.

But do these patterns really deliver the later marital quality and stability they are expected to provide? The fact is that the promoted path many young adults today are pursuing in an effort to be better prepared for a lasting marriage is actually producing the opposite of what they intend.

I believe that what we have in our culture today is the emergence of “marriage preparation paradoxes.” These are behaviors believed to increase one’s chances of marriage success, which actually, on average, diminish one’s chances of having a loving and lasting marriage. The key here is that these behaviors are not being embraced as a departure from marriage or because young people are giving up on marriage, but rather because many young people mistakenly believe they will strengthen their future marriages. For these patterns to change, the faulty logic that undergirds them must be exposed and corrected.


First, we begin by teaching our kids about marriage from their earliest years. We model marriage to them. If our own marriage fails, we make sure the kids also have examples of healthy marriages in their lives.


Yes. I also think starting to foster a culture friendly to marriage at a younger age would be something to aim for.

I got engaged at 27 and married at 28. I often had people tell me “I’m too young” to get married or similar.

I mean, if you can legally vote, drive, purchase alcohol, and consent to sex, then why not get married?

In addition to that we need to change the new cultural aversion to having babies.


In the face of people (and society in general) telling you that the late twenties is too early for marriage, how could married couples have demonstrated that this is not true?


Find some people who married in their 20’s and ask them to talk about their experiences


Yes. It is easy for us (my wife and I) to personally recognize a couple showing a good example of what marriage entails, and to ask and suggest they share their example. That might be done on a one to one basis. The question I have is how. How do you help move the couple to share there experiences with others on a larger level. There are many things pulling on the younger couples time (work, children, etc.); moving them to share there vocation and Sacrament doesn’t materialize.

All I say is based just on my experience in our parish and 2 churches. I am interested in the experience of others.


That’s a very good point.

My husband and I got married in grad school when I was 22 (almost 23) and he was 25. We did NFP and started trying for a baby when he got the offer for his first real job. His one job offer was in a high cost-of-living area. I stayed home with the baby (but of course!) and we were headed toward real trouble financially, because we just didn’t make enough money for the area.

Fortunately, we were able to get four years of free housing after that (faculty-in-residence) and we had a second baby. Toward the end of that time, I did some house-hunting and some financial growing up and realized that we were never going going to be able to buy a house as a one income family in that area. Around that time, husband got a job offer in TX, so we left.

We got a nice, cheap rental in TX, bought our very first car (we were in our early 30s), put our oldest in private school, and started doing Dave Ramsey. It took us nearly 6 years to pay off our debts (car, student loans, credit card), save an emergency fund, and save for a downpayment (fortunately grandma and grandpa paid half), and bought our first house. By that time we had another baby, had been married 15 years, our income had multiplied a couple times, and my husband was 40.

At this point, my husband is 45 and we have three kids in private school. We spend more on school tuition than we spend on our house and property taxes.

It has worked out OK for us (and I hope for some financial relief in a couple of years), but I personally don’t wonder why people aren’t eager to start having a large family at 22. It truly is an uphill battle to save for a house when you are living in a family-sized rental with children.


The sad truth is (and I mean no offense to people who have experienced painful divorces) most people today come from divorced parents. They have been taught that divorce is an option.

When a kid sees their parents in love for 50 years, or sees their parents weather very rough times yet stick together, they become adults with a different worldview.


My husband and I believe in young marriage. We were married when we were 21 years old, after dating for six years. We’ve been married for 39 years now.

Our younger daughter followed in our footsteps. She and her husband married when they were 21 and 25 after dating for seven years! Yes, she was only 14 when she started dating him–and we were fine with that because they gradually earned the right to date by starting out with groups of friends, then two couples, and eventually just the two of them. And they asked us for permission for each of these steps.

They are so cute today (10 years married). Because they essentially grew up together, they are very much in agreement with each other in many areas; e.g., politics. Even when they were first married, they were already like an old couple–they could order for each other at a restaurant, and they enjoyed things like gardening and decorating their yard for Christmas!

I think when couples date young and marry young, they form their interests, hobbies, preferences, and their entire lives around each other and so they don’t run into any surprises or secrets once they are married. When couples wait until they are in their 30s to get married, they already have all their interests and hobbies and preferences, and it’s really hard to try to meld with someone else.


And they then pass it down to their children and on to their friends


I just wanted to add a caveat that I didn’t in the OP.
Being chaste while single, not cohabitating and marrying at 22 or later doesn’t magically yield a perfect marriage. This is what many forget. It’s as bad as thinking life is a movie.
While this is the best path from the evidence collected, it’s best to think of it like health advice. We’re advised to eat a healthy Mediterranean-like diet with plenty of colourful veggies and fruits. It helps massively and lowers the chances of cancer and the rest but that doesn’t mean we’ll all be disease-free when we’re elderly. Nothing is guaranteed.
Also, the path mentioned in this reply isn’t to be followed because the end is to have a fairytale ending. It’s because this path is the one God ordained. The objective is to be with God.


Waiting to get married till after I was 30 worked for me. By that point I didn’t feel I was missing out on any “fun” in life and I had developed the life skills necessary to manage a budget, co-own a home, and generally be a responsible partner.

I don’t know why anyone would have a problem with this, but I guess people can nit pick anything if they feel like it.



I personally know a number of couples who married young and then divorced.

My brother in law for example, he and his first wife were high school sweethearts. They were each other’s prom dates. She was still in college when they married. Their honeymoon was during spring break.

They divorced in their early thirties.


I was 28 my husband was 30.

If I had married my college boyfriend it would have been a disaster.


Same here with the college boyfriend.

The 21-year-old guy who had a lot of life skills compared to the 18-year-old immature dweebs in my freshman class was not looking so great by the time he hit 25.

I am also pretty sure if I had met my husband in college, instead of when he was already 2 years out of college with a professional career going, I would not have been interested in him.


Lost in this is (my personal theory) that marriage isn’t for everyone. It’s probably not suitable for most. Even couples married for decades are breaking up.

How is one to determine if they can stay with the same person for decades to come? How do they know they are ready to settle down? Most obstacles center about those 2 queries.


There are some unfortunate examples of very young people getting married very young, having children right away, and then feeling stuck and like they’ve been cheated of “fun.”

People who get married young don’t necessarily realize what they are signing up for.


Actually, this is Church teaching.

There is some solid arguments to be made that the high divorce rate among Catholics is tied to the fact that parents do not encourage vocations to the priesthood or religious life anymore. Especially when families are having an average of what is it 1.5 children? Parents want their children to be successful in the world of business/commerce. They do not see a daughter taking the veil or a son becoming a priest as success.


It’s nice that this worked out well for you and your daughter- but not everyone meets their spouse in high school or even college. Many people marry later because they didn’t find the right person immediately, or needed to make sure they were financially stable, etc. It doesn’t automatically mean that it’s going to be more challenging to enter into a marriage.

When my husband and I were married, we could also order for each other and knew what things we had in common. This is not exclusive to marrying young. It’s not always healthy to “form your interests and hobbies” around another person, either. My point is that it’s a false assumption that people who marry in their thirties have a difficult time “melding” in their marriage. Marrying young works out well for many people. For those who marry older, for whatever reason, there is no need to be judgmental about how well their marriage is going to work. If anything, we are able to be mature about our issues in a way that wouldn’t have been possible in our early 20s.


Very true. In my opinion anyway, it is more dependent on the life and interpersonal skills a person has developed, and their understanding of both the Sacramental nature and personal relationship involved.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit