I want to preface this by saying there’s nothing wrong with getting married young (although my parents did and ended up divorced), but that’s not my point, and that’s a whole other topic. I’m truly fascinated in why the Midwest is so much quicker to tying the knot than the rest of the country (excluding Utah).
What is it about our environment that contributes to people marrying younger? Why do East and West Coasters scoff at the idea of marriage until their 30’s, but Minnesotans (even single ones) are already planning their weddings (just look on Pinterest) when they leave college?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women in Minnesota get married at a median age of 26.9. It’s 25.9 in Iowa—whereas women in Washington, D.C. are tying the knot at a median age of 30.2 and 29.1 in New York.
For me, the thought of walking down the aisle anytime soon scares the living daylights out of me. This is apparently an unpopular opinion in the Midwest—but on the East Coast, I fit right in. Not only am I changing as a person every day, but even the men I’m attracted to are constantly shifting. I look back at some of the guys I once saw a glimpse of a future with and wonder what the hell I was thinking.
Some of my fears on getting married in my 20’s are: What if I change? What if I wake up one day and no longer want what I once did? What if my spouse hinders me from growing into the person I’m meant to be—and from having a successful career? What if I need more time alone to distinguish what I want in life? What if I haven’t yet dated enough people to know what I want and need in a husband? What if he wants a family right away? Will we be financially and emotionally ready for that?
There are statistics to back up the fact that people get married younger in certain regions, but no real conclusive reasoning as to why (besides religion in Utah). Is it something we can easily define like faith, or is it more abstract? Do Midwestern people just experience more pressure from their friends and family? Are they less career-minded? Less educated (no grad school, etc.)? Less distracted and more bored in their daily lives? More family-oriented? Higher risk-takers?
Clearly, it’s a combination of factors, but I know from observation that pressure from friends and/or family does play a role. Social media users in the Midwest, for instance, seem to make it a higher priority to display their relationships to everyone. There are people who won’t post anything for months, and then once they have a significant other it’s frequent photos. (Both men and women do this.) We seem to value the image of being in a serious relationship more than other parts of the country, which I believe can translate to getting married younger—along with not attending grad school and being more religious.
Needless to say, there is no real concrete answer as to why the Midwest generally marries younger, besides knowing that we as humans are influenced by those around us.
If you’re feeling pressured, realize that it’s not as common as you think to get married in your 20s. You can relax knowing that young adults in other parts of the country (and shockingly some in the Midwest) are also not ready for it. Continue focusing your time and energy on your career, your hobbies and passions, traveling the world, growing intellectually and figuring out what kind of person you want to be. If you’re young, married, and happy, that’s great. If you’re frightened at the thought of it, that’s also great. There’s nothing wrong with not being ready for it now or ever. Live your life at the pace you’re comfortable with.