Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I Married a Teenage Boy and Why You Should Keep Your Opinions About MOM's and Teenage Marriages To Yourself

Disclaimer: I both mean and do not mean this title. Of course, anyone has the right to express their opinion under the constitution. As do I.

After 30 plus years of teenage marriage, I am totally fed up with hearing and reading about how teenage marriages fail. I recently went through this same calculus on a listserve I belong to. My marriage is successful, statistically speaking, because I married a teenage man as a teenage woman. There are many other reasons: we were older teenagers, he had saved quite a bit of money, he already had the equivalent of an associates degree in college credits, I had an entire year of coursework down and was living independently of my family, we were both LDS (he somewhat marginally), I was not pregnant, he was raised Catholic and had an intact family (of nine kids only one has had a breakup of their long term relationships-gay BIL was partnered to his death as well), and my DH's incredible work ethic.

While it is true that teenage brides' marriages fail at a very high rate, the same cannot be said of the marriages that teenage grooms make. In fact, A teenage man's rate of marriage failure (divorce) is considerably less for some time than those men who marry at a later age. If you look carefully at the available statistics, assuming they are reliable (there is somewhat of a debate about this, Time magazine has called them "murky"), you will also find that teenage women married at a rate of 3-5 times the rate of teenage men.

This my friends is the key to the teenage marriage failure rate. It's not the teenager to teenager marriages that are failing, its the teenage woman to adult male marriages that are failing or have failed in the past. Why? I am not a demographer, but I have researched the question of who are the fathers involved in this country's high teenage pregnancy rate. America's dirty little secret is that they are not for the most part teenage fathers. Let me drive that home for you, it is adult men having sex with teenagers.

Who are these men? Well, generally they are men who older women won't have. Men who have a history of incarceration, domestic violence, chronic underemployment, have several children already, and other difficulties. Why do teenage women gravitate to them? The common thought is that these men although damaged do compete very well for the affections of teenage women compared with inexperienced teenage boys. I would submit to you that this same group of men are also a large component of the older men marrying teenage women. And, given their track record it should be little surprise to anyone that these teenage brides experience a higher divorce rate.

There are demographic pockets within all of these statistics that don't follow the generalizations I've made above, but if teenage marriage is so bad overall, you would expect it to be equally bad for teenage men who marry, but it's not. Overall, teenage marriage is very, very rare, and it's even rarer for teenage men. It would be interesting to know more about the asian and white teenage men who marry. Are they in the military? Did their parents arrange their marriages?

Now to transition to the comparison of Teenage Marriages to Mixed Orientaton Marriages. To begin with, I think it is entirely tacky and inappropriate for anyone to talk down to any person who is of age about their desire to marry. Period. It is, frankly, none of your business to start discussing how their marriage will fail. Please tell me the last time you went to a friend who was contemplating their second or third marriage and said, "Joe, I understand your desire to get married, but I have to tell you the statistics are not in your favor . . ."

What are the divorce statistics for second and third marriages? Not Good. For a second marriage it's 60% and for a third marriage it's 73%. Now for a little equal opportunity spiteful hurt, let's just add in a speculation on my part. The rates of domestic violence are the same in the gay community as the hetero community. The rates of relationship problems regarding low libido are the same in the gay community as the hetero community. If things are really more the same than they are different, is it not possible that if you've been married before albeit to the opposite sex, that the mere fact that you have been married at all makes it very likely that even if you marry a same sex partner, if you are so fortunate to find someone even willing and or able to make that commitment to you, that you have an extraordinary high chance of divorce?

Is that really something you want to have thrown up in your face all the time? Or to be compared to the very most dysfunctional and inappropriate (funny how society only gets worked up about FLDS men marrying teenage women) marriages made in society?


  1. I agree, mixed-age marriages are probably the most likely to fail, particularly if the older marriage partner has had at least one divorce.

  2. I hadn't heard the teenage male statistic. And amen to people naysaying other people's marriages because of statistics they may or may not even fully understand.