At issue here is that one of the things which has come to bother me more and more about some strains of moral conservative argumentation in regards to issues like early marriage, having large families, birth control vs. NFP, etc. is the tendency to make the choices the writer is advocating sound like they are as easy if not easier than the opposing choices. All of these are things which I think people should consider, despite strong counter pressures from the mainstream culture, but the fact of the matter is that they are not necessarily easy. And I worry that too often when we elide "good" into "easy" we set people up for failure.
While not everyone meets the right person to marry young, if you do, I don't think that merely being in one's early 20s is a reason to put marriage off. Mr. Lapp does a good job of running through the basic data of how, contrary to some claims, marrying in your 20s is not necessarily a short ticket to divorce. (While people who marry in their teens have a very high divorce rate, marriage in your early 20s is only very slightly more likely to end in divorce than later marriage. I suspect one could reduce the remaining disparity by controlling for economic class and religious practice.) However, I find myself less sympathetic to this cheery section:
And as Mr. Arnett explains, "Many of the identity explorations of the emerging adult years are simply for fun, a kind of play, part of gaining a broad range of life experiences before 'settling down' and taking on the responsibilities of adult life." Young people sense that marriage marks the end of adventure and the beginning of monotony. Implicit is the dichotomy between individual fulfillment now and commitment later.I think there are much better ways to combat the "make sure you have all your fun now!" mentality, without necessarily giving those thinking about marrying at 22 the idea that you can have it both ways. Yes, if, while still very young, you have met the person you believe you are called to marry, you are right to get married rather than living together or some other less "committed" lifestyle. (Both in that it will work out better in the long run not to start your relationship in such a half-way manner, and in regards to this little thing we Catholics call mortal sin.) But at the same time, it's important to understand this will be hard.
It's a false dichotomy. Instead of trekking to Africa or exploring Rome alone, why not marry the person of your dreams and take him or her along? What about discovering, as the characters Carl and Ellie in Disney Pixar's "Up" do, the good of marital friendship?
Yes, getting married right out of college is hard. Society doesn't expect it -- though if you live deep within the conservative Christian sub-culture, you may get a fair amount of support from other members thereof. Your finances will be tougher for a while. Sure, you can save money sharing an apartment and cooking at home -- but you're certainly not going to want to live with your parents or take in roommates. And if you marry at 22, you're likely to be a parent by 24 (and by 26, and by 28, and...), with the increase in expenses and decrease in secondary income that inevitably entails.
That doesn't mean that you shouldn't get married, but it does mean that realism is necessary. This is a hard thing -- advocating that people follow a path while at the same time not overselling it as being easier and more fun than it is. And I don't want to suggest that getting married young, having a large family, using NFP, etc. are not good and satisfying things. I have found them to be very good, and satisfying in the deepest way. But this it the kind of good and satisfying that applied to things like running marathons or mountain climbing. They may be good things to do, they may be good for you, and they may be fulfilling. But they're not easy. And although they get easier with time, they never actually get easy. (Not to mention that along the way you get tired, and sustain the occasional injury.)
Exercise or diet or time management programs that sell themselves as easy, fun and fulfilling all at the same time get a lot of first-time triers, but those triers often don't last. And the reason is simple: they've been sold a bill of goods. These things are not easy. You're better off telling people that they're hard, but that its worth the hardship.
And yet, living in an age which seems to believe more than ever in the quick fix, and that if it feels good it must be good, the temptation seems almost overwhelming to tell people that it will all be fun and easy if only they'll do the right thing. Chastity is sexy. Marriage is one big adventure. Having more kids is easier than having just one or two. NFP is a sure thing, and it's romantic and divorce-proofs your marriage too. And please try out our new chocolate fudge diet -- it's the fastest way to lose weight.