It’s Complicated: Regional Marriage Pressure

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To hell with what my Bishop says, I have zero interest in getting married in my early 20s. But people get married so young around here… I worry despite myself about having options later. Advice? -AG 

Dear AG,

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is self-described as “family-centered.” Not only that, but marriage is believed to be an integral part of every member’s salvation in the hereafter. The stakes could not be higher. 

Even if you spend your early twenties focusing on equally fulfilling causes such as education, careers or traveling, it can be easy to feel like you’re squandering your youth when people younger than you are getting married and posting birth announcements on Instagram.

Outside the church, the average marriage age in the U.S. is 29 for men and 27 for women. According to the Next Mormons Survey (NMS), a study used in a new book “The Next Mormons: How Millennials are Shaping the LDS Church” by Jana Riess, the median marriage age for Mormons is 22. So to the rest of the country, you aren’t a spinster just yet. 

But the odds are stacked against you if you’re a woman. The NMS found that in Utah, active but never-married Mormon women outnumber their male counterparts by more than two to one. However, this is not the case across the rest of the country, where the same category of men outnumber the women. So a woman’s odds of marrying within the church are higher outside of Utah.

Since you’re currently in the middle of your education and can’t relocate just yet, maybe consider graduate programs or job offers out of state a few years down the line, and hopefully there will be more unmarried fish your age in the proverbial sea.

I would also urge you to focus on the friendships available to you in a Young Single Adult ward. We’ve all heard of YSA bishops telling their congregations that their ward is basically a reality TV show and, “You aren’t there to make friends,” (with people of another gender, that is). This is a bad attitude and dismissive of the wonderful people you could have meaningful relationships with, whether you end up marrying them or not.

My last piece of advice is a little fraught. If you feel like it could work for you, do what many unmarried “elder” singles do and look outside the faith. Not in a “flirt-to-convert” kind of way, but just to cast a wider net. This option comes with its own set of challenges, so decide for yourself if this is something you could do.

In the meantime, here’s a line to tell your shop when he hassles you about dating: “I’m not too worried, Bishop. Everything happens on the Lord’s time.” 

I give you full permission to use that with all the sincerity and charm you can muster. What’s he going to do, argue with the Lord?


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