When To Marry
( Originally Published 1918 )
EARLY marriages are generally considered very advantageous for the young man. It might be well for us to consider whether the same holds true as regards the young woman.
When the young man of twenty-one is urged to marry and settle down, it is incumbent upon us to realize that in all probability his wife will be somewhere in the neighborhood of eighteen years of age. She may be even younger than that. Many a girl of sixteen feels that the young man of twenty-one has inspired in her such a love that she cannot live without him, and she may, therefore, seriously consider marriage at this early age.
Marriage before eighteen years of age in women of today is considered premature, and premature marriages are not advantageous, either for the individual or for the race.
It must never be lost sight of that this question is one to be considered from the standpoint of possible children. This is one of the most vital considerations, and it is a wonderful resolvent of perplexities ; questions which might otherwise remain obscure become as clear as day when viewed in the light of the welfare of future generations.
It can readily be understood that at sixteen years of age the individual is not mature enough to give the best possible endowment to the children, physically, mentally, or morally. More-over, the organism is not developed enough to resist well the strain made upon the system by maternity. Therefore, as a rule, those who marry so early in life are liable to age correspondingly early. In races where child-marriages are the rule, women of thirty-six are grandmothers and are already bent and withered—hence the lack of vitality which is found in such races as the Hindoos and other Asiatic peoples.
It is clear that maturity in the individual is desirable before the burdens of parenthood are assumed. When the individual may be considered fully mature becomes, therefore, an important question.
A girl is considered by many to be mature enough for the responsibilities of married life at eighteen years of age. Others again assert that this desirable condition is not reached until twenty or twenty-two years of age. There probably is a good deal of variation in individuals, and the girl, therefore, must decide very largely for herself.
It is not only a question of physical maturity. The temperament of the individual must be taken into account. If the girl of eighteen seems but little more than a child in feeling, given up to the pastimes of that period of life, and with very little thought for the serious side of mature existence, the probability is she will be happier to postpone her marriage for a few years longer. One's sympathy goes out to those girl-wives, forced to give up the pleasures of girlhood which attract them so strongly for the cares and self-sacrifice entailed by motherhood. They regret the pleasures they are obliged to forego, and hence fail to find the joys which are normally found in motherhood. If they could have had their freedom a little longer, until their natural taste for parties and dances and more or less frivolous entertainment was satisfied, they would then have thrown themselves with a natural zest into the life of a wife and mother, and found therein an even greater satisfaction.
For the majority of girls, therefore, I would say that even eighteen years of age is a little early to enter matrimony. If, however, at that time of her life, a girl finds her thoughts and feelings all turning in the direction of the care of her home, and devotion to a husband and children, she need no longer hesitate to take the important step. Without doubt she is ready and will find her greatest satisfaction in that life.
Girls who have been out in the business world from fourteen years of age, moreover, will probably look upon the care of a home and children as a relief from the monotonous drudgery of their previous existence, and for them marriage may be the best thing possible.
As things are today, however, a great many girls are still attending school at eighteen or even twenty years of age, and feel that they have not yet completed the work of building up and developing their own individualities. They feel, it may be, that they will have more to offer husband and children if they are allowed time to develop themselves more fully, and in this they are doubtless correct.
The woman who marries at, say twenty-two or twenty-three years of age, can more understandingly enter into her husband's life and make of herself a truer, more sympathetic comrade than if she is an undeveloped girl, with no understanding of life's responsibilities. Then, too, she has had a little time in which to long for a home and children, and she will in all probability, more fully appreciate them when they are vouchsafed to her. She will also have the judgment requisite for the proper care of herself and of those de-pendent upon her, and the self-control necessary to enable her to make her home a success, and her children properly obedient.
It is not wise, however, for a girl to postpone marriage too long merely because of possible sacrifices which it may entail. She is no true woman if she does not find her joy in going with-out some personal gratification for the happiness of those whom she loves, and she will lose some of the sweetest experiences of life if she deter-mines selfishly to wait until her husband can surround her with all the ease and luxury which her pleasure-loving soul may demand.
There are many advantages in marrying fairly early in life. The superabundant vitality of youth enables one to meet the hard knocks of fate with a laugh, and to get pleasure of some sort out of the most tragic situation. Where two can laugh together they can defy the most strenuous circumstances.
Young parents get more pleasure from laughing and playing with their children, and, as these fresh young lives spring up around them, the parents find that they have attained to eternal youth. As a family, they work and play and laugh and love together, and by the time the parents have reached middle age, the children are ready to assume all of the burdens. Having played through their childhood and youth together, parents and children now enjoy the comradeship of maturity, and thus through a long period of life enjoy the closest companionship. With the prospect of such compensations, who would fear to face the exigencies of life in the buoyant period of youth?
It must not be forgotten, also, that childbirth is easier in the earlier period of life than in the later. The woman whose first child is born between her twentieth and twenty-fifth year will, in all probability have a much easier time than the woman whose first child comes between her twenty-fifth and thirtieth year. Maternity before the age of eighteen is also likely to be difficult. These facts would seem to indicate what is the best period for woman to marry.
It may not be amiss for us to consider the question of long or short engagements from the woman's point of view. Too brief an engagement does not allow enough opportunity for mutual acquaintanceship. Upon meeting a man, a girl may know that he is fascinatingly hand-some. She may also discover that he is a thrilling dancer. She may think that life with him would be one long dream, but if within a few weeks she marries him, she may discover that life has become a hopelessly long nightmare. She might better have taken a little time to discover whether or not there were enduring qualities that would stand the wear and tear of time.
On the other hand, too long an engagement is not desirable. Young people sometimes tie themselves up in this way years before they are able to take up the responsibilities of marriage, and in the end discover that they are fairly tired of each other. Yet they have cut themselves off so completely from other companionship, that there appears to be nothing else in life for them but either to go on making the best of a tiresome matter, or to live a life of separate deprivation. It would have been much wiser for them to have remained free and independent until they were prepared to take the next step within a reason-ably short period of time, for the engaged state makes great demands upon the individual, physically, temperamentally and financially.
If two young people are interested in each other, but see no possibility of consummating their union within a reasonably short period of time, let them remain good friends but retain their freedom, having faith that, if their attachment is a real and lasting one, they will remain true to each other without any pledge having been made. If they do not remain true under these circumstances, it must be taken as evidence that they were not intended for each other, and are, therefore, better apart.