Early nuptials boost Utah’s divorce rate

October 25, 2005 — Leave a comment

Salt Lake Tribune

In Utah, do we marry too young and too quickly?>

High school students are required to take many courses, including chemistry, but, there is no requirement for taking a course in marriage. That would be “chemistry” of a different nature. Such a course, however, may be a good idea considering that 25 percent of our brides marry before they turn 20. That’s 4,000 young women who barely have time to trade in their graduation gowns for wedding gowns. And often, that’s just too young. Otherwise, the state’s divorce rate wouldn’t be higher than the national average. There’s no denying age is one of the best predictors of marital outcome, because with age comes maturity and experience.

The average age for marrying in Utah is 23 for men and 21 for women, compared with 27 for men and 25 for women nationwide. Just think what that extra 3 1/2 years could buy? A bachelor’s degree, advanced training or education through travel, financial independence and self-awareness. The No. 1 statement I heard in private practice from women who felt that they married too young? “I need to leave my family and go find myself!” My response: “Too late! Find yourself right here, as you raise your little ones and take on the mature duties of marriage.”

When we skip any steps along the lifeline, we cannot go back and pick them up. Instead, we move forward, perhaps adding a few steps along the way. The time may be right, once again, to pursue your degree or start a business.

Utah has a mandatory class you must take prior to finalizing your divorce, but no mandatory class prior to getting married. Why?

Most couples struggle with five areas of conflict: money, sex, in-laws, children and time. So if our conflicts are similar across the board, what determines the difference between successful and divorcing couples? Maturity, wisdom, confidence, responsibility and self-awareness. These factors have one common element: age. Unfortunately, with age, wisdom does not always come. However, there is no substitute for time when it comes to our development. It takes time to grow.

What do you think? Do we marry too young and too quickly in Utah?

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Dr. Liz Hale

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