I’ll never forget the night I had a phone call with my cousin’s high school sweetheart. By now, he was a sophomore playing football at a Power 5 Division I school—and they were still together. As you can imagine, he also had the attention on campus that a football player of that caliber experiences—especially from the ladies.
But this guy was young and in love. He was focused on the girl of his dreams.
“Josh,” he said, “I want to marry McKenzi. I know she is the one for me.”
A sophomore in college—surely they’re too young to get married—especially in today’s culture, right?
Ask most parents of googly-eyed high school or college students and they agree, believing marriage before education to be preposterous. Even most high school sweethearts I know who confessed their desire to marry broke up in the first semester of college.
My cousin was only 20 years old at the time and also still in school, 200 miles away. I wasn’t about to put brakes on it. But I did have questions.
“Okay,” I responded, “we live in a day and age where marriage, especially in the environment you’re in, is not highly valued. Who will you surround yourselves with to help you grow together and stay committed?” I asked. “Do you have a church community or family nearby the two of you can connect to?”
As we walked through a list of questions on the phone that night, he impressed me. He thought very well through his decision to marry young.
That following year, they walked down the aisle—at just 21 years old. Christi and I took them out to dinner a few weeks prior to their wedding. Their character was impressive.
After three happy years together, their marriage reminds us:
Here are 5 sure-fire warning signs that you may be getting married “too” young.
- You believe marriage is when life really begins. There’s a reason Hallmark movies always end at the wedding. We’re enamored with the pursuit of “being in love.” If they began on the wedding day, these movies would struggle for ratings.
That’s because the pursuit of unconditional sacrificial love looks nothing like a Hallmark movie. Instead, it’s filled with crazy in-laws, financial difficulties, dirty laundry, and competing personalities under the same roof. And that—we assume—is before kids enter the picture.
- You’re getting married just to get out from under your parent’s roof. I meet with many young people who live in dysfunctional homes and simply want out. I understand wanting to get out of dysfunctional relationships, but if the primary reason for getting married is because it’s your ticket out from under your parent’s roof, you’re likely doing nothing more than continuing the generational cycle under your own. Instead, seek wise counsel.
- You’re not willing to be part of a community who supports your marriage. Just as I asked my cousin’s boyfriend at the time—who will you spend time with? Bad company corrupts good character (1 Cor. 15:33). Our culture today is not marriage-friendly, telling us if we no longer “feel” in love, it’s okay to look elsewhere.
If you want to get married young, you will need all the support you can get. That means we must be willing to let others into our business. Teachable couples pursue the support of their local church community and are willing to seek other older and wiser couples to mentor them. Having the support of your immediate family is also important.
- You can’t yet maintain a job. If you’re not old enough to get a job, you’re too young to get married. Okay, so that’s a no-brainer. But I’m not talking about child labor laws on this one. I’m referring to you or your potential spouse’s ability—as a capable adult—to maintain a job that will support your family. If you’re too lazy or not responsible enough to hold down a job, you’re not ready for marriage.
One of the top criteria for a young man to date my daughter will be whether or not he has held a steady job.
- You’re getting married only because you’re pregnant. Often, pressure from parents or friends to get married—usually to save face publically—makes this decision even worse. The last thing you want is to resent your decision because the marriage resulted from the pressure of others, not by your own desire. As both of you stay committed to becoming parents, take the time get to know each other and plug into community together (see #3).
Marriages fall apart because of deep character issues, not because of surface issues, chemistry or compatibility. Character is everything.