When I was 11, I sat in my room writing a news story about the Marines in Camp Ramadi, Iraq. I wrote this story based on the information my dad was giving me while he was there. At that moment, I knew I wanted to be a journalist. With this in mind, I have always been far more focused on my career than on getting married.
Growing up in the church, much of what we are told as young women is that it is our job to be a “Proverbs 31 woman.” Our job is to raise a family, nurture our children and be a partner to the head of the household, our husbands. While I agree with these facets of marriage, and I want to experience them someday, they were never something I wanted to face in my early 20s. The desire to be married young was not something I resonated with.
Since I was a kid, I knew I wanted to grow up, go to college and work as a journalist in Washington D.C. or as a foreign correspondent in the middle east; marriage was definitely not on my radar. Then I got to college.
Being a student at Azusa Pacific University, it’s really easy to fall into the narrative of “ring by spring.” Additionally, since APU is a Christian school, the ideology of young marriage permeates the atmosphere.
I think a lot of this narrative is attributed to purity culture and the fact that premarital sex is deemed the ultimate sin by the church. If it’s frowned upon in the church to have sex before marriage, then being married young could decrease that temptation. I know this isn’t the reason some young people get married but it is still a driving factor for many.
While we legally become adults at the age of 18, our brains are arguably not yet prepared to make such a large decision. According to neurologist Sandra Aamodt, brain development is not complete until the age of 25.
“The changes that happen between the ages of 18 and 25 are a continuation of the process that starts around puberty, and 18-year-olds are about halfway through that process,” Aamodt said. “The prefrontal cortex is not yet fully developed. That’s the part of the brain that helps you to inhibit impulses and to plan and organize your behavior to reach a goal.”
I think growing and learning together as a couple can be a beautiful thing, but I also think there is immense value in knowing who you are as a person, wholly, before getting married. As Aamodt mentions, this process of rationalization is not complete until around age 25. This is an important detail because many young people who grew up in church are getting married three or more years prior to this development being complete.
If I were to get married young, I would feel like I was giving up a part of myself and giving up my 20s. I know most people who get married young don’t see it this way. But our 20s are the time to make mistakes, take risks and live our young lives. I think there is something to be said for sharing your 20s with another person but for what I personally want out of life, I can’t imagine being responsible to or for someone at this point in my journey. I want to be able to go on spontaneous adventures or go out with my coworkers after a long day at work. I want to date and find out what I really desire in a husband. But more than anything else, I want to fully know and be confident in who I am before I share myself with someone else for the rest of my life.