Dear Rabbi Boteach,
My son and his girlfriend are both 20 and I believe they are very compatible. They both work full time and go to school and are responsible people. They've been talking about getting married next year, which I think is fine. However, when I mention this to my friends, without exception, they think I'm crazy. Every single one has said that they think 20 to 21 is too young to get married. What are your thoughts on getting married at that age?
--Puzzled Parent

Dear Puzzled,
Well, I have a personal bias here because I got married at the exact age that your son and prospective daughter-in-law wish to. I was 21 when I got married, and consider it – by far – the best decision of my life.

I believe it is much better to marry the right person at the wrong time than to marry the wrong person at the right time. You seem to think highly of the woman your son is dating, so why should he walk away from her?

Plus, who says that the early 20’s is the wrong time to marry, anyway?

I am a great believer in marrying young, for these five reasons, among many others:

1. Marrying young means you grow up together. You are not fully formed when you marry. You discover life together. You enjoy becoming fully-fledged adults as a shared experience. This adds to the magic and aura of married life. It also means that you are not as set in your ways when you marry, and are therefore more open to sharing and compromise.

2. Marrying young means avoiding the ten or so years that most people waste dating. Dating has become an end in itself, and it is very harmful to singles. They check each other out as if they were buying salami from the supermarket. The process is degrading and designed to heighten insecurity. One feels constantly judged and manipulated. One learns not to open one’s heart to the opposite sex, but to close it. And then we wonder why, by the time these messed-up singles get married, divorce is so common.

3. Marrying young means avoiding the multiple sexual partners that most singles have. Having a lot of sexual partners means becoming desensitized to the human body in general, and to the sexual act in particular. Most singles today have sex with the same intensity with which they ride a bicycle. It really is no big deal. The human body and sex are objective to them; they have lost their ability to be subjectively attracted to the opposite sex because they have become experts in an area where they are meant to retain their innocence.

4. Marrying young means avoiding loneliness. Almost every single person I know is lonely. Granted, many are not honest enough to admit it, or they cover over their loneliness with TV, movies, friends, or empty, casual relationships. But their loneliness becomes ingrained, they learn to be emotionally independent, and later, when they want to fall in love and lean on someone else, they wonder why they can’t.

5. Marrying young means having children earlier, and not becoming a parent when you should already be a grand-parent. There is nothing like having kids early. It solidifies a marriage, it gives a husband and wife the ultimate shared experience, and it brings indescribable joy. Because I became a father young, I was a "big kid" myself when my kids were born. I did not lose my playfulness, and I could connect with them so much more authentically.

So give some of your friends these counter-arguments, and give your son and his bride-to-be your encouragement and blessing.

And G-d bless you too.

Rabbi Shmuley
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