It’s 2013. It’s obvious things have changed since our mothers’ and grandmothers’ time. More women are going to college. More women are becoming executives. More women are making advancements to technology and changes to the way we think.
Why shouldn’t more have changed in the way we think about marriage?
The topic for this post was spurred by a fairly recent article. At just 22 years old, Jordan Linn Graham murdered her husband of one week by pushing him off a cliff.
Her motives are not known, but it wasn’t an accident. After a mix of various stories, Graham stated that she and her husband, Cody Lee Johnson, had gotten in an argument while hiking in Glacier National Park. Johnson grabbed her arm, and she retaliated by pushing him, consequently, to his death.
While some commentators may reply saying, “Push her off a cliff” or, the opposite: “He probably deserved it”, neither of those get to the bottom of the issue.
The average age of first-marriage for a woman in the U.S. is 26 years old. This is the highest it’s ever been, but Graham was four years younger. Four years of experiencing life, independence and freedom younger. Four years of soul-searching, discovery and love younger. Why at such a young, naïve age did she choose to get married?
A friend of Graham’s told officials that Graham confessed she was unsure of her marriage to Johnson only days after saying “I do.” Marriages unravel every day. And although I’ve never been married, I’m aware of the assumption that an intensively-planned wedding should not dissolve in a week after marriage, especially considering the couple had been together for two years. Regardless of how old women are when they finally tie the knot, there is still an enormous amount of societal pressure to get married, and stay married. Perhaps this was the case for Graham.
It’s also worth looking at the experiences of some women in some developing nations. In Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Bangladesh, and Guinea, over 60 percent of girls will be married before the age of 19. It’s all too common for women or girls to be married off to men three or four times their age. Not only does this greatly hinder any life and career options the girl may have, but marrying prematurely can often result in physical, mental and emotional damage. In a recent case, an 8-year-old Yemeni girl died due to internal sexual injuries she encountered on the night of her wedding to a 40-year-old.
Child marriage happens every day, every year to thousands of girls around the world. The International Center for Research on Women reports that nearly 1 in 9 girls will be married before the age of 15, 1/3 being married before the age of 18. The highest concentration of child marriage is far geographically and mentally from the minds of Americans though. Africa and Asia hold the largest number of child brides, due to population size and poverty levels. In Niger 75 percent of girls are married before the age of 18.
There is not one logical reason as to why girls get married so young, but a brief overview does show societal reasons behind the trend of women marrying young. In Yemen, where the little girl died, families have multiple reasons to marry off their young girls. For example, poverty makes it desirable for someone else to take care of a girl, have one less mouth to feed, body to clothe, and brain to educate. Fears of rape, death or deeper poverty are other excuses that may in turn kill a young girl.
The inability for parents to care for the daughters and children, and the extreme poverty that plagues the heart of these countries is the main source for the shockingly high child bride numbers. In these countries, it’s not about love or desire to marry; it’s an attempt at life. It’s a different need to marry than the kind American brides may experience. It’s a need to marry for survival, for hopes of a better life. Sadly, it often doesn’t end that way. Pregnancy is the leading cause of death worldwide for women ages 15 to 19. While this situation is far different than the one modern women face, it’s just as real and important.
In the U.S., where Graham and thousands of other young brides will marry, there are different reasons. Many young women want to get married because “it’s time.” After being with a man for so long, many just feel the need to marry to fulfill that prescribed next step. Some may have pressure from family or friends to marry the one they’re with, because, well, they might not find another good guy. Some get married because of unplanned pregnancy, others get married because they’re ready. If it’s too early, it’s not right.
You should get married for love, not for society or family. A woman should never feel the need to marry, but rather the desire and love to marry. Getting married for any other reason than love, mature love, is just stupid.
If only women knew that they didn’t need to get married at any given time, but at the right time, things would be different. Women can do great things, extraordinary, life-changing things. But getting married younger may hinder those achievements. There shouldn’t be a need to marry, and hopefully one day women everywhere will see that.
(public domain photo)