There are a number of different factors that will impact whether or not you and the person you are dating should begin to consider marriage. Communication skills and styles, how well your overall values align, and the ability to work together as a team are just some of the many things to think about before accepting an engagement. Another key factor to consider? Age. While a successful marriage can occur at any point in life, there are some ages that the experts agree are more conducive to a harmonious partnership.
So, how old should you really be when you get married? We asked four professionals—Dr. Wyatt Fisher, a licensed psychologist who specializes in marriage counseling; Callisto Adams, a certified dating and relationship expert; Kelsey Torgerson is a licensed clinical social worker; and April Davis, the founder of LUMA Luxury Matchmaking—to weigh in here.
Meet the Expert
What to Know About Getting Married in Your Late Teens and Early 20s
"On average, the younger a couple is when they get married, the more problems they have," says Dr. Fisher; he adds that marriages that happen when both partners are in their late teens or early 20s tend to be associated with higher divorce rates. The reason, he explains, is because people change a lot during this period of time. "People grow so much in their 20s. If you get married early, the risk of changing drastically and waking up feeling like you have nothing in common [with your spouse] and wanting different things in life is high," he explains.
Another risk of getting married too young is it doesn't give you much opportunity to explore your options. "When you are too young, the risk is you may not have had many opportunities yet to have different partners and experiences, and this is how you find what you want and what you don't want," says Dr. Fisher. "There is a lot of self exploration and growth that happens when we date."
From a neurological standpoint, Kelsey Torgerson, a licensed clinical social worker, says that waiting until your brain has fully developed—which happens at age 25—to get married is important. “I believe it’s best to wait until this marker,” she says. “It’s also important to experience stressors with your partner that you overcome, so if you have a high school sweetheart, you should see how you two handle college, long distance, studying abroad, or getting two jobs. You want to know that you have the conflict management strategies in place for a healthy, successful marriage down the road.”
Adams also worries that people in this age bracket don't have the same level of skills to sustain a marriage. "That is due to the lack of experience, awareness, maturity, and level of communication that takes to hold the bases of a marriage strong and standing," she says. She, too, recommends waiting until at least your mid 20s to say "I do."
What to Know About Getting Married in Your Late 20s to Mid 30s
Dr. Fisher believes that marriages that take place when the couple is in their late 20s to mid 30s are most successful. "By the time we are getting to the late 20s we have a clear sense of who we are and what we want out of life," he explains. "Once you get to this age you are more established, you are more settled, and you are more focused on who you are. By your late 20s, you are sinking into that, but the time you are in your late 30s, you're there."
Adams also believes that this is an ideal time to get married. "By the time one has reached the late 20s or early 30s, generally, they’re aware, experienced, and mature when it comes to dealing with trauma, issues (emotional, health, financial, etc), and communication," she says. "That’s why I see that time as a convenient one for those looking to settle into marriage."
What's more, Adams says that she sees people in this age bracket as better able to handle the realities of marriage. "You're more capable of responsibility, accountability, and freedom during those years of life," she adds. "Not to mention that you’re more likely to be financially stable, which is optimal if you’re looking to start a family."
What to Know About Getting Married in Your Late 30s and Beyond
Couples are getting married later in life, so it's not abnormal to settle down in your late 30s or 40s. The upside to this if you know what you want by this age and you've likely had a few different relationships, which means you know what works and what doesn't.
The downside is that you might be somewhat inflexible by this point, says Dr. Fisher. "If you've been single for a long time, you can be more set in your ways," he explains. "You think your way is the right way, and it can be hard to compromise and share power. That is where conflicts can come up." For people who have been living independently, who have high-powered jobs, who have traveled on their own, it can be hard to merge their lives together.
Dr. Fisher also says some people focus on the wrong qualities in a person as they get older. "If you're in your late 30s or early '40s you can get too picky, especially in today's world where we have so many opportunities to date like never before," he explains. Online dating is a wonderful way for many people to meet, but it can also result in some people searching endlessly for the "perfect" person. "You can never be content because there are so many options," Dr. Fisher says.
Signs You Are Ready for Marriage at Any Age
It's important to remember that these are broad generalizations. There are very mature 20-somethings and immature 40-somethings. This begs the question: How can you know when you are ready for marriage? Adams says you will know that you're ready for marriage when you understand the complexities of this type of relationship and feel ready to handle them. "[You need to have] a sense of awareness of the weight and importance of the marriage as a concept," she explains.
According to April Davis, the founder of LUMA Luxury Matchmaking, you can be ready for marriage at any age. “There isn't necessarily a best age to get married, but there definitely is a best time to get married. The best time to get married is when you feel comfortable and confident in your job and personal life. If you were to give yourself an exact age, you might find that you settle for whomever you're with at that age.”